archival original 2 film reels (2,088 feet) sound color 16mm
Motion pictures (visual works)
title from credits (published work)--archival collection
supplementary materials: camera and shot logs
Donated by Sanford Low in 2015
Edited film, shot on the atoll of Satawal in the Caroline Islands under the supervision of anthropologist Sam Low, explores the continuity of Polynesian navigational methods. These methods are introduced through over-dubbed interviews and subtitled footage of Mau Piailug, the last man on Satawal to be initiated in recognition of his control over navigation and magic. Mau and a crew sail a replica of a traditional Polynesian canoe from Hawaii to Tahiti without using modern tools; Mau is depicted teaching the crew ancient astral and wind navigation techniques. Other footage includes: boat handling, men building a canoe and braiding rope, a communal fishing expedition, prayer at a Christian chapel, and women preparing food including coconut and breadfruit. Substantial time is allotted to interviews with anthropologists, explanatory narration, and animation, establishing the wide historical reach of Polynesian sailors by identifying similarities in artifacts such as pottery and canoes among far-flung islands. Emphasis on navigation as dying art, both by Mau and the third-person narrative. Cinematography by Boyd Estus, directed by Sanford Low and Boyd Estus and written and produced by Sanford Low.
Courtesy Sam Low
Human Studies Film Archives Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland 20746