Despite finding major box office success and Oscar glory in Hollywood, filmmaker Taika Waititi never lost touch with his New Zealand roots. Recently, he took to Twitter to express support for a filmmaker of Polynesian descent to headline the movie adaptation of a real-life Lord of the Flies incident. The story involves Tongan Castaways, six teen boys stranded on an island who made a pack never to quarrel.
“Love this story. Personally, I think you should prioritize Polynesian (Tongan if possible!) filmmakers as to avoid cultural appropriation, misrepresentation, and to keep the Pasifika voice authentic. I’m probably not available lol.”
Lord of the Flies is a classic novel that tells the tale of a group of British schoolboys who find themselves shipwrecked on a deserted island, where they quickly devolve into a brutal social structure where the strong prey on the weak. The story has inflamed the imagination of readers for decades, but as Dutch historian Robert Bregman discovered, a real-life incident which matches the premise of the novel panned out rather differently.
In an excerpt from his new novel Humankind which appeared in The Guardian, Bregman describes how back in 1965, a group of schoolboys, Sione, Stephen, Kolo, David, Luke and Mano, all belonging to a strict Catholic school in Nuku’alofa, grew bored with their surroundings and plotted an escape to Fiji on a boat some 500 miles away.
In accordance with the plan, the group of boys ‘borrowed’ a boat from a local fisherman and armed with some meager provisions, set off on the open sea towards new vistas. Naturally, their inexperience soon left their plans in shambles and the boat a wreck, but not before the boys spied a deserted island in the distance and managed to deposit themselves and their few belongings on it.
On the island, known as ‘Ata’, the boys survived for 15 months, dividing up responsibilities and working together in harmony, until they were rescued by Captain Peter Warner, who had noticed burned patches on the sides of the island from a distance and decided to investigate.
Ever since the article appeared in The Guardian, Bregman had been bombarded with interest by readers. Naturally, quite a few film studios are interested in adapting the story for the big screen, a fact that Bregman celebrated with a Twitter post.
“Getting bombarded with emails from producers and directors inquiring about the film rights of this story. I’m so glad the ‘boys’ from The Real Lord of the Flies are finally, after 50 years, getting the attention they deserve.”
It was this tweet that Taika Waititi was responding to when he expressed hope that Polynesian filmmakers would be used to bring the story of the shipwrecked boys to life. It also sounds like Waititi would have liked to have tackled the story himself if he had not been busy with Thor: Love and Thunder, and an upcoming movie in the Star Wars franchise.
Hopefully, Bregman will find the appropriate indigenous talent required both behind and in front of the camera to bring to life the remarkable story of the group of young boys that gives us a more hopeful take on the ‘marooned on a deserted island’ trope than Lord of the Flies did. The original story comes from The Guardians.