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The Solar Nation of Tokelau: An adventure in documentary making

Tokelau solar energy system

Volume 23, Issue 1

July, 2017

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Weissbach, U. (2017). The Solar Nation of Tokelau: An adventure in documentary making. Pacific Journalism Review, 23(1), 55-64. doi:10.24135/pjr.v23i1.206
Author(s): Ulrich Weissbach
Publication date: 
July, 2017

Commentary: The Tokelau solar project first came to the attention of this filmmaker at a Pacific Energy Summit in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2013. Three remote islands in the Pacific becoming the first 100 percent solar-powered nation on earth and setting an example for the complete adaptation of sustainable energy sounded like a story too good to be overlooked by mainstream news media. However, research demonstrated that this was indeed widely ignored. So the author set about his usual practice of pitching the idea to his colleagues at German Television. The fact that he had already made a short documentary about Tokelau in 2006 (ARTE TV Reportage: Independence Referendum in Tokelau) and was thus familiar with the territory and its people, which worked in his favour. But funding proved to be a difficult challenge because the logistics of the project demanded a longer than usual shooting schedule and crew time. In the end, a solution was found by accessing additional funding and negotiating a bulk deal with the crew to make The Solar Nation of Tokelau (2014).

Caption: Powering a people - The Solar Nation of Tokelau. Image: © Documentary by Ulrich Weisbach, Pacifica Productions