★★★★ for Vai on Stuff.co.nz
James Croot reviews Vai on Stuff.co.nz, 3 April 2019:
“Waru follow-up an even more ambitious and audacious piece of film-making”
Kiwi producers Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton's follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut Waru is perhaps even more audacious.
Rather than an octet of tales revolving around a single event, Vai focuses on eight stages in one woman's life (a kind of female Pasifika reimagining of Shakespeare's famous As You Like It speech).
For extra complexity, each of the vignettes is set (and shot) on a different island with completely new casts (which often include first-time actors).
Yet from Suva to the Solomon Islands, Manono Island to Motueka, there's a surprising coherency as Vai's journey from seven to 80-year-old unfolds. Some of that can probably be attributed to the restrictions the producers put in place. Each of the nine female film-makers (who also include Dianna Fuemana, Matasila Freshwater and Amberley Jo Aumua) were asked use water (the other Vai of the title) as a visual theme, create a shared history of their lead character and craft an around 10-minute tale, shot, where possible, in a single take. That last "obstruction" is a masterstroke, drawing the viewer into each of the stories, making them feel part of Vai's journey through the islands and providing a visual touchstone across the disparate tales.