19 Aug 2009
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Celebrated Fijian New Zealand filmmaker and playwright Toa Fraser has been selected as this year's recipient of the three month Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer's Residency at the University of Hawai'i.
Fraser will use the residency to write his second draft of the screenplay for a film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Beach at Falesá. The project was previously attempted by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, whose version never made it to screen but was published as a novel in the 1960s.
More recently, Scottish novelist and screenwriter Alan Sharp, who adapted a short novel by Lord Dunsany into the screenplay for Fraser's latest film Dean Spanley, wrote a number of drafts of his own screenplay for The Beach at Falesá over a period from the mid-1990s. He recently handed the project over to Fraser, who will finalise the screenplay and direct the film. Fraser sees his own revision of the screenplay as "a conversation between Stevenson, Sharp (and to a lesser extent Dylan Thomas) and myself" in which he aims to provide authentic roles and voices for Pacific characters in the story.
"This project represents a unique opportunity [for a Pacific writer]," says Fraser. "It is a story primarily about European traders, and yet Stevenson's writing offers a sharp criticism of British colonialism in the Pacific. As a young Pacific storyteller, I am excited about the opportunity to wrestle ownership of this Pacific story back from the imagination of the esteemed European storytellers who have gone before me on this project."
Fraser hopes to begin shooting the new film on location in Samoa in 2010. He is the sixth New Zealand writer to take up the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer's Residency at the University of Hawai'i's Menoa campus in Honolulu, following in the footsteps of fellow filmmaker Sima Urale, playwright Victor Rodger and several others.