Climate change is a hotly debated topic in American politics, but for the Carteret Islanders, a peaceful community living on a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean, it’s a bitter fact of life. When rising seas threaten their survival, they face the painful necessity of leaving their beloved land in search of a new home.
Oscar®-nominated this year in the Best Documentary Short category, SUN COME UP chronicles the relocation of some of the world’s first environmental refugees.
With a population of about 2,500 people, the Carterets are a group of Papua New Guinea islands located 53 miles northeast of Bougainville in the South Pacific. Because of climate change, it is estimated that the islands will be uninhabitable by 2015, making its people the first island community to undergo an organized relocation as a result of rising sea levels.
For many Carteret Islanders, losing their land means not only the loss of history and culture, but also the loss of identity and memories, since they have a deep emotional and spiritual connection to the land and the sea. Unfortunately, the mainland government has no strategic plan to aid these climate-change refugees, though it sends boatloads of rice to stave off hunger after crops are damaged by seawater. With government failing them and food shortages a growing concern, the Carteret Islanders must take it upon themselves to save their community.
Community leader Ursula Rakova is one of a small group chosen to move her people off the islands to higher ground in Bougainville – a mission complicated by the fact that Bougainville is still recovering from a violent ten-year civil war. After crossing the open ocean in two tiny boats, the Carteret travelers embark on a three-week journey through the villages of Bougainville, receiving a mixed reception from many of the locals. The refugees share their story at community meetings, with Kathleen Maili, a member of the group who has no experience in speaking to a large gathering, summoning the courage to plead their case.
Accompanied by a Bougainville chief and a Bougainville veteran of the civil war, the Carterets finally arrive at the heart of Tinputz, where they are greeted with a festive reception and offered a small patch of land on which to relocate the first five families. The remaining islanders hope to move over the next ten years, as their homeland will soon live only in memory.
In addition to receiving an Oscar® nomination, SUN COME UP was an official selection at IDA Docuweeks.
SUN COME UP is directed by Jennifer Redfearn; produced by Jennifer Redfearn & Tim Metzger; executive producer, Abigail Disney; cinematography, Tim Metzger; editor, David Teague; music composed by Shahzad Ali Ismaily and Qasim Naqvi.