Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Sergio Mata’u Rapu, Eating Up Easter is a heartfelt exploration of multiculturalism in modern society. Both an interesting self-examination of the filmmaker’s identity and a touching letter from a father to his young son, this film will undoubtedly be very resonant for anyone who comes from a mixed background.
In the film, Rapu explores the culture and community of his homeland, Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island), from its tribal customs that struggle to stay relevant today to its current status as a destination for tourism and a provider for resources for the neighboring country of Chile. This is undoubtedly a very personal story for Rapu, and this lends the film a great deal of honesty.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the film is that it is framed as a message from the filmmaker to his young son as an exploration of their roots that he hopes them to embrace. While this device has been done before, and it isn’t used as consistently in this film as one would like, it’s definitely effective at creating an emotional connection to the film.
There’s a lot to explore in regards to this culture, and while it seems at times like Rapu may be biting off more than he can chew, he is able to go into sufficient depth to make the film work. The film is arguably at its least effective when it tries to go on an environmentalist tangent which, while noble and important, is undeniably less interesting than the preservation of a dying culture.
The film does a solid job of developing the Rapa Nui people as subjects of the film. There is one subject in particular, Mama Piru, whose story is particularly compelling. As one of the islanders’ main voices, encouraging her people to both embrace traditions and incorporate some of the newer ways of doing things.
Rapu’s main point with the film seems to echo many of the concerns expressed by Mama Piru. Although it is obviously very important for the Rapa Nui people to embrace their past, they are also experiencing new challenges unlike anything they have seen before. The result is a greater need to work together as a community more than ever.
On a technical level, Rapu has delivered a gorgeous film by default, thanks to the beautiful scenery of Easter Island. However, Rapu’s talent becomes obvious in his ability to juxtapose these picturesque backdrops with the rougher elements of the island’s current state, like the seas of trash they must process.
Eating Up Easter is definitely a very interesting documentary thanks to director Sergio Mata’u Rapu’s unique approach to the story. While it may not be the work of activism that it seems to hope to be, it’s still a worthy and insightful watch.
Eating Up Easter screens online in partnership with indie theaters beginning April 22. A list of participating locations can be found here.