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JUNGLE LOVE: Footscray director Bentley Dean on his Oscar-nominated film Tanna


JUNGLE LOVE: Footscray director Bentley Dean discusses the genesis of his Oscar-nominated film Tanna.

Australia has been submitting films for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the past 20 years, but it’s only this year’s entry, Tanna, that has made it to the final nominations list.

This came as something of a shock to Footscray director Bentley Dean, who co-directed the film with Martin Butler.

Using local people, many of whom had never seen a movie camera before, the film is set among feuding tribes on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu and tells a very familiar story about two lovers who come from rival families.

Before Tanna, Dean & Butler had directed documentaries such as First Footprints (2013) and Contact (2010), the acclaimed, multi award-winning documentary about an  indigenous tribe that encountered white people for the first time in 1962 during a missile test.

Lovers in trouble: Wawa  (Marie Wawa) and her beau Dain (Mungau Dain) enjoy a rare quiet moment in Tanna.

Lovers in trouble: Wawa (Marie Wawa) and her beau Dain (Mungau Dain) enjoy a rare quiet moment in Tanna.

And while Dean was certainly pleased that Screen Australia had submitted Tanna for Oscar consideration, he wasn’t expecting it to get the attention that it has.

Though the film played to a very small theatrical audience in 2016, Dean says Tanna’s nomination has boosted sales of the DVD and has ensured that their phone calls to sales agents now get returned.

As well as co-directing, co-writing and producing Tanna, Dean was also responsible for the film’s remarkable cinematography, which shows the jungle as a vibrant, structured living space rather than as a jumble of foliage.

While preparing to head off to Los Angeles, Dean sat down with us to discuss the making of the film, the impact of Oscar, what the adjective ‘anthropological’ means, and the look of the film.

Please enjoy.


Click play below for the interview with Bentley Dean


Click play for a trailer for Tanna


* Tanna is available on DVD, Google Play and iTunes.