It’s Not That Her Mom Doesn’t Care. She Just Can’t Believe What Her Daughter’s Trying To Say.

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This could be any mother and daughter, really, just trying to understand each other. But given the subject matter — that Kiribati, their tiny home in the middle of the Pacific, is most likely going to be underwater in the next 30-50 years — it’s also a collision between what some people think is impossible and what really is about to happen. In this surprising, sweet tribute to her mother, the filmmaker eventually realizes she has to come up with her own way of thinking about the future.

Kiribati is a group of 32 atolls and one coral island where 100,000 people live, midway between Australia and Hawaii. The sea has risen 8-10 inches already, and saltwater has infiltrated its water supply and soil. It’s predicted that it may rise as much as three feet by 2100. Here's more information about Kiribati and other places affected by global warming’s rising seas.

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Narrator: To other people she's known as Mustrabads. Before she met and married my dad she was even Mustranaka. Here are few things to know about my mum.

Narrator: Dancing. My mum is the best mover I know. Playing cards. She can obsessively play for hours on end until she wins. Singing. She loves to sing, but especially while playing her ukulele.

Narrator: Cold weather. She grumbles her way through each English winter. Loosing out to her scratch cards, or as she calls them, her bingo cards.

Mustrabads: No Bingo.

Narrator: Grey hair. It always upsets her when her roots start showing. And finally, the thing she hates the most is change. Despite living in the U.K. since 2000, she's never wanted to cook British food.

Mum is from a tiny group of islands called ding.

Narrator: That's pronounced kiri-bas. Let's say it together one more time. Kiri-bas. Kiribati has a population of 100, 000. It's made up of 32 atolls and one raised coral island. The islands are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, half way between Australia and Hawaii. According to scientists, Kiribati will disappear under rising sea levels in the next 30 to 50 years. Kiribati is so remote from England, that when I last visited, it took over 23 hours to get there, flying from London to Los Angeles, then on to Nadi, Fiji, where I took one last plane to the capital island, Tarawa.

With Kiribati being located so far away, it could be so easy to think who cares. But I suppose the thing is, Kiribati, it matters to me. For me and my family Kiribati is my mum's homeland, it's where her family live, where my parents met, and where I was born and lived for the first six years of my life. Since leaving Kiribati, my mum pretends not to miss it.

Do you miss your friends and family. Is that the one thing you miss about Kiribati?

Despite her denials about homesickness, one of her favorite things to do is to watch old VHS. No matter how many times she watches, the video remains the same. Me, appearing in the bushes, playing at being camera shy, my mum smiling at the end of the shot, fishermen casting their nets and the waves slapping along the beach. The very same beach which is threatened by rising sea levels.

Over the years, I've repeatedly asked my mum the same question.

What do you think the people, the governments in the world, what do you think they should do to help Kiribati, [inaudible 00:03:43] what do you think they should do?

Mustrabads: But then where will the people of Kiribati go When that ... that thing comes ... Where will it go, Kiribati? I don't know ... where ... what. Maybe they are going to go to Fiji? Or New Zealand or Australia? What are people to do?

Narrator: But what I'm saying mum is, it shouldn't come to that. Kiribati should still be there.

Mustrabads: I don't know.

Narrator: My poor mum. I'm constantly pestering her, to the point of interrogation. Questions I don't have answers to.

Mustrabads: What do you think about Kiribati when the sea comes up? What do you think about it? Should they stay in Kiribati or should they go where?

Narrator: I don't know mum, that's the problem.

Mustrabads: Why you always ask me about that? It't not the what...

Narrator: I just think because you are from Kiribati, and you've spend most of your life in Kiribati,unlike me. It feels like Kiribati means something different to you than it does to me.

So that's why I always ask you what you think about Kiribati disappearing, because it means something completely different for you.

It was during this interview, I had an epiphany. All these years, my mom and I had been talking about two different things.

Mustrabads: There are people that say in Kiribati ... the sea it can't come up ... the sea going up to Kiribati. Only some places like the Solomons, Samoa, places like that, the volcano reaches, the Tsunami, yes?

Narrator: Yeah, but that's the thing, the Tsunami is different from...

Mustrabads: It's different from the sea coming up?

Narrator: Yeah. Because tsunami is a natural disaster that happens instantly, where as global warming and potentially the sea rising, is something long term, it doesn't happen just over night.

Mustrabads: But then what will happen to people in Kiribati, where will they go? Can they stay in Kiribati or will they go anywhere?

Narrator: It suddenly all became clear in the interview. My frustrations with my mum's opinions on Kiribati's faith suddenly made sense. It's not that she doesn't care, it's just been a case of crossed wires. So imagine if my mum living in the U.K. is confused, what must it be like for people living in Kiribati?

Lots of the older generation in Kiribati, they say they won't leave Kiribati. They'd rather die than leave Kiribati.

Mustrabads: Ah they want their homeland, they want to die in Kiribati ... ah ...

Narrator: I think what makes me sad is, one day in the future, I hope to have children, and I want to be able to take them to their grandmother's home island. And maybe there'll be nothing to show them. If scientists are right, maybe a whole nation will have to be relocated and only a few people will remember the stretch of sea that was once Kiribati.

So, let this film be a keepsake, a memento where Kiribati can be forever remembered, frozen in time. Where Kiribati matters, not to be forgotten.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
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This lovely video was made by Victoria Burns as a tribute to her mother, Tinau, for the Action4Climate video competition sponsored by Connect4Climate.

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