"RISING WATERS" DOCUMENTS PLIGHT OF UNHEARD PACIFIC ISLANDERS

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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (April 18, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---In her film, "Rising Waters: Global Warming and the Fate of the Pacific Islands," producer and director Andrea Torrice brings the issue of global warming to the forefront.

But most importantly, Torrice documents the plight of many Pacific Islanders whose lives are most affected by this international issue.

Those voices, Torrice said, typically falls on deaf ears by the United States and other superpowers who contribute the most to gas emissions, yet whose leaders are doing little to stop it.

"Pacific Islanders are on the frontline of this issue," Torrice said in a phone interview with Pacific Islands Report from New York City.

"Pacific Islanders in atolls who are raising the issue to the international community are at the forefront because their lives are at stake."

Torrice will be in Hawai‘i today for the film’s showing at the East-West Center’s Keoni Auditorium on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The event is free to the public.

Torrice will introduce the one-hour film. She will also participate in a panel discussion following the film with Joe Konno, executive director of the Chuuk Environmental Protection Agency, and Eileen Shea, coordinator of the EWC’s Climate Project.

The documentary already received a warm reception during the Hawai‘i International Film Festival last year.

It also received a showing in New York City Monday. The film will be broadcast nationwide on Public Television this Sunday to coincide with Earth Day.

"People in New York came up to me after the film and told me that they never knew about the islands in the Pacific," she said. "Having the film shown in Manhattan tells us that we also live on an island and share the same problem."

Torrice got the idea for the film following the Kyoto Treaty negotiations in 1997.

"I would read about the global warming treaty in the press and about Pacific Islands trying to lobby for emission cuts to stop rising sea levels," she said. "But at the time, I really didn’t understand the impact it would have. Having sea-levels rise seven inches didn’t seem like a big deal to me."

She was again faced with the issue in 1998 while videotaping a conference at the University of Hawai‘i that was attended by scientists studying tropical climates in the Pacific.

Scientists say just a few degrees in water temperature spurred by global warming could wreak havoc on the oceans. Temperature changes could cause more intense and frequent El Niño periods, and affect migratory fish patterns, rainfall, water supply, storm surges and tide levels.

The scientific information presented at the conference regarding the effect global warming has on the Pacific Islands was enough to convince Torrice that something needed to be done.

"We heard stories of how global warming leads to beach erosion, coral bleaching, and temperature changes," she said. "I realized that this is one of the most pressing issues of our time and that the cultures of the Pacific was at risk."

While scientists and policymakers continue to debate the effects of global warming, Torrice’s film captures the human aspect of the issue.

"I wanted to put a human face on the debate," she said. "The film shows the emotions and frustrations of Pacific Islanders. This issue is a human struggle."

The film profiles Pacific Islanders in American Samoa, Fiji, Hawai‘i, the Marshall Islands and Samoa.

"I want to thank the Pacific Island people who were brave and gracious enough to allow me to interview them on what is an emotional issue," Torrice said. "They told their stories eloquently. They are really the unsung heroes. The whole world should be listening to what Pacific Islanders are saying."

The film has already won awards at various film festivals around the world, including the Chicago International Film Festival.

National Geographic intends to air it on its television program next year.

Torrice hopes the nationwide distribution of the film will break down stereotypes people have of the Pacific.

"It’s getting better, but there are still stereotypes," she said.

"I wanted to show fresh portraits of young Pacific Islanders who are struggling between holding on to their traditional cultural upbringing and living in the new world economy."

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