Aussie film to examine taboo love

26 November, 2014 by Don Groves

Director/writer Bentley Dean and his family lived for six months in a remote Melanesian village earlier year.

Far from an extended holiday, Dean devoted his time to researching, casting and preparing to shoot Taboo, a novel romantic drama set on the island of Tanna near Vanuatu.


The screenplay by Dean, his co-director/co-writer Martin Butler and John Collee, will follow two teenage lovers who risk their lives for marriage, forcing the village to choose between traditional duty and individual freedom.

Screen NSW funded development, Screen Australia has approved production investment and filming will starting next month, with Dean doubling as the DoP and Butler handling the sound. Dean and Butler will produce with Carolyn Johnson (Son of a Lion).

Dean has already filmed rehearsals with the cast, all locals, and says he is “”constantly floored” by the performances.

He showed the cast Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes on his laptop to give them an idea of the kind of film he wants to make. De Heer has been an unofficial consultant on the project.

Taboo will be shot in the local Nawhal dialect, with English subtitles. Collee agreed to collaborate on the screenplay, drawing on his experiences when he worked as a doctor in the Solomon Islands.

Dean tells IF the film is based on a true story of events in 1985 when two lovers who were forbidden to marry took their own lives. That was a turning point for the tribal elders, who thereafter agreed to permit love marriages.

“It’s a Romeo and Juliet story with universal themes which we think will transport audiences to a different world,” he said. Umbrella Entertainment is the Oz distributor.

This is the pair’s first narrative feature after making First Footprints, a docu series on Australia’s original pioneers 50,000 years before Captain Cook, and Contact, an ABC docu which looked at some of the last Aborigines to meet the modern world – 20 desert-dwelling Martu people.