“Why do mothers have to fight so hard for what feels so right?”
The documentary Pacific Mother began with this simple question from Sachiko Fukumoto.
Our short documentary, Water Baby, released in 2019, documented their journey. It has now been viewed by nearly eight million people globally and screened at international film festivals. Today, it’s used by birthing educators around the world, motivating expectant parents to explore birthing options.
In Pacific Mother, Sachiko travels from Japan to Hawai’i, Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand to connect with strong ocean women, whose stories about birth and parenthood inspire a more traditional, connected way of life.
All mothers, these women had diverse birth experiences. Some birthed in hospital, some at home, some by the sea, some with medical assistance and some without. Buoyed by the support of their community and circle of midwives and carers, they went into birth without fear, and gained confidence from it.
As they prepare for the birth of their second child, Sachiko and William want to draw on what they have learned since Water Baby, and show their daughter that protecting our environment and supporting families grows healthier communities.
Through their interwoven stories, the film explores the importance of community, reclaiming traditional birthing knowledge and the connection between caring for the planet and nurturing both parents and their children.
Best New Zealand Feature
‘This film took the judges on a beautiful cinematic journey that was hugely emotional and told an empowering conversation with indigenous women front and centre of its telling. The judges felt this film would resonate with local and global audiences alike.’
Best New Zealand Director: Katherine McRae
‘Katherine started filming before the first Covid lockdown and has demonstrated resilience and fortitude backed by her producorial team to bring a beautiful cinematic film to our screens, overcoming the restrictions that Covid imposed creating an inspiring narrative.’
Best New Zealand Editing: Lala Rolls
“It is clear that we are in the hands of a masterful editor who has combined many sources and elements to create a stunning and impactful story”
Best New Zealand Cinematography: Various
“Clearly the work of many fantastic cinematographers. The underwater scenes were particularly cinematic. A truly visual feast”
Behind the scenes
Pacific Mother started filming just before the Covid-19 outbreak, soon after we returned to New Zealand from Hawai’i, where we filmed USA spearfishing champion Kimi Werner.
The pandemic made it very hard to keep filming, especially internationally, but it was impossible to stop filming because the team was already "pregnant" with the project and could not walk away!
So we adapted. Almost two and a half years of travel restrictions and a full schedule of interviews across the world meant we had to get creative to finish telling our story by whatever means possible. Grounded and locked down, we got to work connecting with film crews on the ground across the Pacific, sometimes directing and interviewing over Zoom, to ensure we could film the other women who were so integral to the story.
We have been so lucky to work with some of the best in the business, including world-renowned underwater cinematographers such as Tim McKenna in Tahiti and Kazunori Nagatani in Japan. All of Sachiko's scenes in Okinawa and Fukuoka were filmed remotely with an incredible Japanese production team.
We waited 18 months to be able to film in the Cook Islands with Ioana Turia and family. And in Aotearoa New Zealand, we filmed either remotely or in person, depending on the restrictions.