But in this dreamlike animation, writer-director Danielle MacLean gradually pans up from deep in the ocean blue to reveal a mother and daughter fishing in a canoe. Together, they face the ominous image of an invading ship. The juxtaposition of this mystical and timeless relationship between sky and sea, with the horrors signaled by the forthcoming ship, sets a clear tone for a film commissioned to reckon with the British Empire’s uninvited arrival in the Indigenous territories of the Pacific in the late eighteenth century: one that centers the voices of the people who were already living on these lands and who, despite centuries of genocidal violence, still remain.
We Are Still Here is a series of eight short films, referred to as chapters, quilted together into one epic feature written and directed by 12 Indigenous filmmakers from what is now Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa. After a pitch call by Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department and the New Zealand Film Commission directly to Indigenous storytellers, the filmmakers convened for a series of development workshops in which they ultimately decided it would be more impactful to make one collaborative, anthology-based feature than several standalone shorts.