“Gorgeous" - RogerEbert.com on Vai
RogerEbert.com reviews Vai at SXSW, 18 March 2019:
“It isn’t just gorgeous, it feels spiritually poignant, a reaffirmation of cultural identity and a showcase of the strength of women’s stories.”
One of my favorite moments of the festival came from a movie I caught on a brief suggestion. “Vai” had no famous names or faces attached, but one woman I spoke with kept telling me I should check it out because it was “gorgeous.” If anything, she undersold it. It isn’t just gorgeous, it feels spiritually poignant, a reaffirmation of cultural identity and a showcase of the strength of women’s stories. The seven-part anthology film from New Zealand follows an indigenous character named Vai (or variations of the name) at different stages of her life on different islands in the Pacific. The movie shows different practices, different ways of dress, different problems, features different languages, deals with different themes of diaspora and sacrifice. Yet, there’s also an undercurrent of resilience, of what it means to hold onto to one’s cultural heritage against the pressures of time and conformity. It’s visually gorgeous because the nine women filmmakers who worked on the seven shorts that make up the story of “Vai” capture the natural surroundings so vividly, but it’s also gorgeous in the way the filmmakers connect their versions of “Vai” to life, family and the traditions we pass on to future generations.