5 Minutes with Forest Woodward
The Together Project: Who or what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Forest Woodward: My parents are both storytellers in their own rights with a deep love of the human and more than human world. They have exposed us to traditions of oral storytelling from an early age, and that love of story eventually translated to the medium of visual arts for me. I found film to be a powerful way to amplify the voices of gifted storytellers and important stories around the issues of our time.
TTP: Was this your first time in the Pacific?
FW: I had travelled some in the pacific previously, but this felt like stepping off the edge of the world a bit as we flew into the vast expanse of Pacific Ocean that surrounds the geographically isolated and often extremely small islands of this part of the world.
TTP: How did you find your time in Tavalu?
FW: In Tuvalu we were met with a depth of kindness the likes of which I have only rarely ever encountered in the world. Hospitality was not a considered option, a measured exchange – it felt rather to me like a deeply and genuinely connective and instinctual reach across cultural and language barriers to share a meal, a laugh, a conversation, and ultimately a rooted sense of our common humanity in a fundamental and beautiful way.
TTP: The footage you took of children playing in the water is so powerful – was this difficult to film?
FW: We spent a lot of our time on the island with families, and this footage was a natural extension of that. The front yard for every kid growing up in Tuvalu is the ocean, and spending time together in it seems the most natural pass time in the world. Their sense of connection to the water and the tides and the life affirming forces of the sea was mirrored in the way they flowed from game to game, group to group, ever changing, ever curious, ever open.
TTP: What was challenging about making the film, both physically & emotionally?
FW: Physically the heat and our lack of preparedness for the intensity of the early summer sun in the islands was challenging. But the far greater challenge was emotionally trying to grapple with the heaviness of climate change on a global level, and the extent to which we as Americans are particularly complicit in it. It is a heavy thing to sit with, but also to know that we could leave at any point – an option that was not a reality for most Tuvaluans – left us feeling a deep responsibility to try to share the story of the people we met in a way that honoured the dichotomy of that reality and put their voices forward.
TTP: What impressed you most about the people you encountered there?
Kindness, generosity, optimism, intelligence, good humour, resilience.
FW: What are you working on now?
I’m continuing to write, photograph, film and listen in the hopes of sharing stories that challenge the destructive narratives of our times, and uplift the voices of wisdom keepers and those who have the clear eyes and strong hearts to be able to look into the future and find room for hope.