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Tanna Blu-ray Review

Tanna (2016) movie poster Tanna

US Theatrical Release: September 16, 2016 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Directors: Bentley Dean, Martin Butler / Writers: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, John Collee

Cast: Mungau Dain (Dain), Marie Wawa (Wawa), Marceline Rofit (Selin), Chief Charlie Kahla (Chief Charlie), Albi Nangia (Grandfather and Shaman), Lingai Kowia (Father), Dadwa Mungau (Grandmother), Linette Yowayin (Mother), Kapan Cook (Kapan Cook), Chief Mungau Yokay (Peacemaking Chief), Chief Mikum Tainakou (Imedin Chief)

Buy Tanna from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Italy and France have dominated the Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film category, having won a combined 26 of the sixty awards dispensed. Spain and Japan are next in line. Way down the list is Australia,
which has submitted ten films for consideration and only this year received its first nomination. There's an obvious reason for that: Australians speak English and thus the majority of films produced Down Under have been ineligible for the one Oscar where foreign films have their best shot at winning.

That makes Tanna a trailblazer. Not a film many expected to make the shortlist over the likes of Elle and Neruda, this little production employing the Nauvhal language of Tanna Island in Vanuatu and the natives of the independent nation, ended up getting one of the five available nominations alongside Germany's acclaimed father-daughter dramedy Toni Erdmann, Sweden's crowd-pleasing A Man Called Ove, Denmark's hard-hitting post-WWII drama Land of Mine, and the award's eventual winner, Iran's The Salesman, whose greatest buzz has formed about the impact of Trump's travel ban on its maker.

If you know Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story, or even The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, then you know the plot of Tanna. Based on a true story and performed by the People of Yakel, this unrated drama sees an attractive young man (Mungua Dain) and an attractive young woman (Marie Wawa) in love. Their love is secret and forbidden and after the father of the man, Dain, gets clubbed on the head, the lady, Wawa, is given as a peace offering to a rival tribe, whose chief's son will marry her.

In the Academy Award-nominated "Tanna", Dain (Mungua Dain) and Wawa (Marie Wawa) run off to be married.

Instead, Dain and Wawa run off and wish to marry for love and avoid their tribes. Things end as well for them as they did for Romeo and Juliet.

Tanna is fascinating because it depicts a people with a way of life far removed from our own. Ostensibly set in the 1980s -- and somehow both looks and feels like an '80s art film -- Tanna could really be set any time in the distant past. The cast is comprised entirely of non-actors playing characters named after themselves.
The writers-directors Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, each an Australian with a few film credits to their name, have been embraced by the culture they depict and clearly take pains to do it justice.

Tanna is visually striking, with repeated pilgrimages to a volcano that holds spiritual significance to the people. It also includes the line "Catch her! She stole my penis sheath!", which I'm pretty certain must be an Oscar first.

The fourth film set in Vanuatu according to Wikipedia, Tanna feels like a one-off, more akin to Mel Gibson's Apocalypto than any of the year's other foreign language submissions I've seen. Grossing just $47 thousand from only ten theaters in North America last fall, Tanna will hit DVD and Blu-ray from a company called Lightyear Entertainment on March 7th, a week and two days after its name was read before the millions watching this year's embarrassing Academy Awards.

Tanna Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (Nauvhal), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Nauvhal)
Subtitles: English
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $25.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($19.99 SRP) and Instant Video


Tanna's greatest power may be in its visuals, so it's refreshing that the Blu-ray's 1.78:1 presentation is without issue. The Nauvhal soundtrack plays by default in Dolby Digital 5.1. You'll want to change that to the secondary 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix and there isn't even a Set Up menu to point that out to you. The burned-in English subtitles are clean, well-timed, and grammatically perfect. This is really the best way to see the film assuming you weren't anywhere near one of the ten US theaters that showed it.

Albi Nangia conveys the excitement of both seeing his first movie and having it being one he is in. The cast of "Tanna" draws looks as they walk past a "Black Mass" poster at the Venice Film Festival.


Under the heading "Bonus Programs", we find five short featurettes.

"The Story of Tanna" (6:39) seems to cover all the bases in a fast but substantial manner.

"Cyclone" (2:18) looks at the effect a tropical storm had on the region. "Going to Venice" (0:50) simply sees some of the cast members singing en route to the Italian film festival.

"The Making of Tanna" (2:14) feels like an extension of the first piece. Finally, "What Does the Tribe Think" (3:37) gathers thoughts from the people of Yakel, where a screen was tied to trees and the film was projected for them.

In addition, Tanna's theatrical trailer (2:11) is kindly preserved here.

The disc curiously opens with a long trailer for a 1980s anthology film called Aria, which apparently hits Blu-ray in a 30th Anniversary Edition the same day as Tanna. I guess Lightyear Entertainment, which apparently has some connection to Sony based on the listings at Amazon, doesn't have the most extensive or current of catalogs.

The main menu plays clips from the film, moving the title around over it.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the full-color disc inside the standard keepcase, which was shattered on my review copy.

Lovers Dain and Wawa are backlit by the embers of an island volcano in "Tanna."


Tanna is a distinct change of pace from most cinema. This nicely-photographed drama doesn't really tread any new ground narratively, but its application and relevance to a culture gives it value. Though fairly unremarkable, Lightyear Entertainment's Blu-ray is largely without complaint.

Buy Tanna from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
2016 Foreign Films: Toni Erdmann Elle Land of Mine The Handmaiden
New to Disc: Arrival Moonlight Manchester by the Sea Hacksaw Ridge Allied
Australiasia: Hunt for the Wilderpeople What We Do in the Shadows Under Capricorn

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Reviewed March 3, 2017.

Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016-17 Lightyear Entertainment, Screen Australia, Film Victoria Australia, Contact Films.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.