This tale of island people in Micronesia wins the race to find who global warming is hurting first. Though cut off from the world’s media, the people of this rarely visited corner of the world are already dealing with salinity in the soil and eroding coastlines. In the offing is their uniquely intact indigenous culture, which seems to be more sustainable than anything in the modern world.
Steve Goodall, a filmmaking sailor who stumbled upon the tribe during an extended sea sojourn, winds up working for their salvation. The result is Someplace with a Mountain, which Goodall spent some time discussing recently.
How did you find these islands?
While I was in Fiji, and had an okay Internet connection, I went to Google Earth and looked at all the islands in Micronesia. These were the most intriguing I had seen, anywhere, so I had to go. I had read about “the Navigators” in three different books (the first was written in the 1960s) and they were portrayed as if they were certainly “the last ones.” So I really didn’t expect to find any navigators still alive, let alone still a thriving part of their life.
Are they well visited?
Chief Ioki told me they get about 4 sailboats a year.
It’s a great portrait of an indigenous culture that’s intact but also seems to be very smart and sustainable. What can we learn from how they live?
These people seem so happy — at least they did before I came — I try to describe it as the feeling one gets when you’re working in a garden, or chopping wood, that deep sense of connection with the world. Everything they do is so natural that I think it leaves them with an inner happiness that we Westerners only seem to get in small doses. We need to learn that a simple life is a happy life. We seem to believe the opposite.
Do you think the people of Yap would have been as gracious if there wasn’t a camera in the room? Was there any resistance to you filming during those meetings?
I do, yes. They all seem so friendly and generous and placed no restrictions on the filming. If anything the filming seemed to embolden them, in my view.
What’s the status now?
Yap has just finished the first part of the feasibility study. This is simply amazing because of the very small economy and limited civic resources they have. They are the heroes of the day.
Have they started moving?
Yes, unfortunately, some have began moving. It’s very sad.
Steve Goodall’s Someplace with a Mountain is scheduled to screen on Friday, January 28, 7 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and on Saturday, January 29, 11 a.m., and Monday, January 31, 4 p.m., at the Metro 4. The schedule is subject to change, so see independent.com/sbiff for updates.