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‘I of the Water,’ a documentary about writer Sia Figiel’s journey of healing

Screen shot from video
Wins First Look first prize at The Forum
Source: Variety

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A prize that fosters creating opportunities for documentary filmmakers goes to a new documentary about Samoan poet and novelist, Sia Figiel.

“I of the Water,” one of 20 projects presented at Hot Docs marquee event, the Forum, has won the First Look first prize, one of four prizes announced Wednesday at the festival.

Kimberlee Bassford’s “I of the Water” focuses on acclaimed Samoan writer Sia Figiel and her experiences untangling her complicated past and initiating a journey toward healing. The film is produced by Bassford, Marilyn McFadyen, Vilsoni Hereniko, Leanne K. Ferrer, Cheryl Hirasa, and Linda Goldstein Knowlton.

Hot Docs is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing and celebrating the art of the documentary and creating production opportunities for documentary filmmakers.

Born in Matautu Tai, Samoa in 1967, Figiel grew up amidst traditional Samoan singing and poetry, which heavily influenced her writing. Her formal schooling was in Samoa and New Zealand where she also began a BA, which was completed at Whitworth College (United States). She has travelled in Europe and completed writers' residencies at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, and University of Technology, Sydney.

Figiel's poetry won the Polynesian Literary Competition in 1994 and "Where We Once Belonged" was awarded the 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for fiction, South East Asia/South Pacific region. Her work has been translated into French, German, Catalan, Danish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Portuguese.

In her 20s Sia lived in American Samoa and met other writers and artists at O le Siuleo o Samoa, the writers group mentored by playwright and screenwriter John Kneubuhl in his home at Olo.