Young entrepreneur and filmmaker Zane Wilson (of Wilson Visuals) has recently returned from Yanuya Island in Fiji – where he lived with a local family for a week and helped out at the village school. Zane filmed his experience, and his documentary can now be watched locally and online …
Hi Zane. Apart from travelling – what’s been keeping you busy lately?
Lately I have been doing my final year of schooling, Year 12 at MacKillop College, which has been taking up most of my time. However, whilst completing school, I have been super busy creating different types of films, mostly commercial work and wedding films. There has been a lot on my plate lately, balancing between the business and Year 12, but nonetheless I’m still loving the work and stoked with how things have been turning out lately!
You recently spent some time on Yanuya Island in Fiji. What led you to venture there?
For my 18th birthday, my mum offered me a return plane ticket to somewhere nearby, instead of having an 18th party! I was pretty keen on the idea, so I had a look on the world map to see some options that might be available. I was super determined to create a film of wherever it was I was going, and I realised that to do that, it would take more then to just have a holiday in a beautiful country.
I then looked into volunteer programs based around Fiji, where I found Involvement Volunteer International. They offered a program on the remote island of Yanuya, working in a primary school and living with a local family. Some of the conditions were that you would have to apply for the program, and only a maximum four volunteers were allowed on the island at one time, which I thought was pretty cool. Fortunately enough, I was accepted to head over there – and the adventure began!
What can you tell us about this island?
The island is tiny; you could probably walk around the whole thing in 30 minutes or less. The island consisted of the primary school and a small village. Most of the kids who attended the school travelled by boat to and from school from nearby islands, where they live.
It is part of the Mamamanuca island group and is directly next to the island where the film Castaway was made! The Fijian culture is very strong compared to the mainland; original customs and rituals are still very evident and part of the locals’ everyday lives. The people are extremely friendly, as their belief of respect for one another is of utmost importance to them. Therefore, it is also incredibly safe, and any types of crime and violence are practically non-existent.
How long did you stay on Yanuya, and what was your accommodation like?
I was on the island for a week; I would have loved to stay longer. The first few days it was tough to adjust to the living conditions, but once settled in, it was amazing.
The accommodation was the most basic you can get. We lived with a family consisting of a five-year-old boy and 12 year old girl and the mum and dad, who looked after us and cooked for us every day. It was a small cemented house, tin roofing, with no furniture other than a thin mattress on the floor, and some milk crates with cooking supplies and a small, portable gas cooker.
The nights were incredibly warm; however, we had a nice sea breeze. It’s funny, the room was so simple and basic, but the view was worth a million dollars – looking out to the Pacific Ocean and nearby islands, especially on sunset.
What are some memories you took away from this experience that will stay with you for a long time?
Every single day was filled with amazing experiences and memories, which I will remember forever. Some of the best ones would be having my own Year 8 class and teaching them throughout the day and playing sport with them in the free time. The kids were so friendly and well behaved, as well as being so excited to learn every day. The enthusiasm in everything they did was awesome! Especially sports – it got competitive!
Another memory would be walking through the local village saying hello to all the little kids and their families and playing with them at the beach; a group of them even climbed up the coconut trees to get us a drink. Just being a part of their everyday lives was so incredibly eye opening.
Finally, who could forget the kids’ excitement when I brought out my drone and flew it around the island. They had never seen anything like it before; that was seriously one of the best things I have ever experienced!
What were some of the biggest culture shocks you experienced while you were away?
It would probably have to be the food. The island wasn’t able to grow much variety in fruit or vegetables; it was all brought over from the mainland, but not very often. As a result of this, we pretty much ate the same food every day – Fijian pancakes for breakfast, some kind of yellow pea curry for lunch, and fish for dinner (the whole skin and bone, fried in a pan). Towards the end of the week, something sweet and sugary became a craving.
You filmed a short documentary while visiting – simply titled Yanuya. What’s the inspiration behind this film?
That was a big priority of mine, to document the whole experience. The message I really wanted to portray through the film was the amount of positivity and happiness on the island, despite having so few possessions. Everyone lived the most basic and simple lifestyle, but it seemed to make them incredibly happy.
It forced me to rethink life back at home completely. The westernised world has so much, yet has the highest levels of depression, and that really just speaks for itself. This was a big inspiration for the film, as well as for myself as a whole.
Where can we watch Yanuya?
The film will also be playing on a projector on a big wall behind Adrian Cornale EyeQ during the Port Macquarie Art Walk on 20th April!
What adventure awaits you next?
At the moment I’m planning on finishing Year 12 and continuing to grow the business, doing as much work as I can. Next year will be exciting, as I plan on doing a lot more travelling and creating similar culture orientated films, kicking it off with Japan early March!
Interview by Jo Robinson.