Arty peek

THE highs and lows of Pasifika queer life are captured in an extremely personal film by Sione Tuívailala Monū at PICA art gallery. 

Shot entirely on an iPhone, we get a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of Monū and their friends – a mix of the mundane and the outrageously camp.

Smoking, making a bag with a saucy print, twerking, a drag cabaret, eating breakfast, and dancing at a festival all feature in a chaotic and entertaining montage.

Some scenes are accompanied by a brooding classical score, reminiscent of the psychological space thriller Solaris, but it’s the softly spoken voiceovers that ground the film, drawing you into their colourful world and adding a poetic quality to the visuals.

In one scene Monū’s friend talks about the minutiae of smoking, and in another the challenges of growing up queer.

“From a young age I’ve always captured footage of myself and family and edited little clips of us with music and edit in ways I would see in films,” Monū says.

“I loved seeing my family in this cinematic context, a art form that doesn’t have a large Polynesian voice. 

“These little clips I’d edit of my family was escapism for me and for my family and eventual audience but also it was a way of imagining our lives and our stories as equally important/interesting/profound as the Caucasian voice/experience in cinema.”

Of Tongan heritage, Monū now divides their time between Canberra and Auckland, working in a variety of mediums including photography, moving-image, fashion and adornment.

The artist cites director Pedro Almadovar as their biggest influence in film. 

“At the moment I’m very interested in what Luca Guadagnino and Apichatpong Weerasethakul are making,” Monū says.

“I don’t think I usually have any overarching theme in mind when I edit my short films. I’m more concerned with moods and feelings that are conjured with the footage and music I edit. 

“Usually ideas and concepts that I’m interested in makes its way into the work subconsciously.

“I think that’s the great thing about developing an editing practice on my phone from a young age, the work I make is very intuitive and organic.”

With more and more iPhone film-making competitions, could we soon see the demise of traditional movies?

“I think big studios will always be around coz nothing beats an big over the top $200m action adventure film, ha ha, but I do feel there’s endless potential in the new technologies everyone has in their hands these days,” Monū says.

Leitī, a series of short films by Monū, is showing as part of the winter exhibition at PICA in Northbridge from July 30 until October 10.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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