Tanna Blu-ray Review

A 2017 Academy Award nominee performed by the people of Yakel in Vanuatu

A moving, heartfelt tale of forbidden love set in an exotic South Pacific island with an active volcano. Tanna was a 2017 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Co-directors Bentley Dean and Martin Butler spent months with one of the last traditional tribes in the South Pacific crafting this intimate meditation on star-crossed lovers bucking tribal traditions. Supposedly based on a true story told by the island’s remaining inhabitants, Tanna is a unique experience with a truly magnetic cast of natives.

Most Hollywood movies, while slick and honed down to a successful formula, often lack a feeling of genuine emotion. Tanna is a unique production using the native people of Yakel, a tribe untouched by modern civilization. Filmed on location in Vanuata, it tells a heartfelt tale of two lovers caught up in a feud between neighboring tribes. This youthful tale of romance moves with a poetic sense of narrative and timing. The breathtaking scenery is a perfect back-drop for this native-spun take on Romeo and Juliet.

The people of Yakel live a simple existence, unchanged for thousands of years by modern culture. The carefree Wawa (Marie Wawa) is a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman in her tribe. Wawa enjoys her simple life with a younger sister and the tribe. She has fallen in love with the tribal chief’s grandson, Dain (Mungau Dain). Approaching the age of marriage, the couple talk dreamily of their future together.

Wawa’s future is thrown into serious doubt when a neighboring tribe develops a serious feud with her tribe. After their tribe’s shaman is attacked, the elders arrange a marriage for Wawa with their rivals as a peace offering. Marriage has always been arranged in their village according to custom and Wawa’s feelings for Dain aren’t taken into consideration. She must leave the village and abandon Dain to marry a stranger from another tribe.

… an exotic Romeo and Juliet

The peaceful future of the tribe is at stake and much more if Wawa won’t accept this arranged marriage. Wawa and Dain appear unwilling to accept it, putting their lives at stake from warriors tasked with enforcing tribal law. Their forbidden love puts everything at risk.

Australian filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler have a background in documentaries. Tanna beautifully captures the spirit of the Yakel people and their primitive daily life within the simple narrative. Based on a true story still told in the Tanna community, the film is an exotic Romeo and Juliet.

The lush locations and stunning cinematography add a necessary element to the seen-before tale of forbidden love and star-crossed lovers. Several key moments occur around the rim of an active volcano, one of the most picturesque and appropriate settings possible. The volcano works as a perfect visual metaphor for the passion of young romantic love.

Video

Lightyear Entertainment presents Tanna in solid video quality from digital cameras. The scenery is occasionally spectacular and its cinematography was good enough to win Best Cinematography from the Venice Film Festival. Tanna is shown at 1080P resolution in a 1.78:1 presentation. Encoded in AVC on a BD-50, its compression averages well into the thirties.

Tanna’s definition and clarity are fairly revealing. Close-ups are razor-sharp with excellent detail. Some minor compression noise is occasionally evident in the denser material. The color palette strikes a nice balance of rich saturation and proper contrast. This isn’t picture-perfect digital video all the time. A few limitations of shooting on a remote island creep into the video on occasion.

Tanna’s modern video lacks the pure HD polish afforded by larger Hollywood productions but makes up for it with the beautiful setting of Vanuata. Most Westerners will only be previously familiar with Vanuata from Survivor, as that CBS gameshow has gone there for a couple of seasons. It’s a typical sun-drenched island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Audio

Music plays an important role in Tanna. Its sparse dialogue is set to a haunting score. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has several strong moments, engaging the LFE channel with serious rumble when the volcano comes into play. The simple, clean surround mix nicely spreads the outstanding original score by Antony Partos (Animal Kingdom) throughout the soundstage. The score features delicate electronic ambience, drumbeats and haunting vocals by Lisa Gerrard.

A secondary 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack at 448 kbps is included. The movie, spoken entirely in the native dialect of the Yakel people, includes permanently burned-in English subtitles.

Extras

Lightyear Entertainment includes several short featurettes for Tanna, offering a glimpse behind the scenes with the tribe that acted in the film. The primitive Yakel people seem happy to have help maked the film.

The Story of Tanna (06:39 in HD)

Cyclone (02:18 in HD) – A devastating cyclone hit the Yakel village after filming Tanna, killing a young child.

Going To Venice (00:50 in HD) – The Yakel people attend the film’s premiere in Venice.

The Making of Tanna (02:14 in HD)

Aria Trailer (03:25 in HD) – This plays before the main menu.

Tanna Theatrical Trailer (02:11 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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