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Poetic about an occupied people 

Ma'ohi Nui, in the Heart of the Ocean My Country Lies
Regissør: Annick Ghijzelings
(Belgia)

The Heart of the Ocean is a poetic exploration of the natives' lives in Tahiti and in French Polynesia, and reveals the fatal aftermaths of nuclear explosions and colonization.

The French-speaking Annick Ghijzelings has created perhaps her most ambitious – and definitely the longest – documentary with Ma'ohi Nui, in the Heart of the Ocean My Country Lies. 

Ghijzelings weaves together the three decades of French explosions over the Polynesian archipelago: Between 1966 and 1996, 193 nuclear bombs were blown above and below the ground, with devastating consequences for the islanders and their culture.

Through poetic narrative voices in both French and Polynesian languages, history, myths and creation stories are merged with a backdrop of breathtaking nightly voyages and shabby huts in barracks along the airport, along with long shots of locals' silent faces. The film thus also tells a story of the present, where it becomes clear how French nuclear weapons ambitions have destroyed these islands. 

“It was like being born into a completely unimaginable new world. We didn't immediately realize that this was dangerous, that it would destroy us. " 

With its 112 minutes, this tale of colonization and the long-lasting effects of the nuclear explosions could have emerged even stronger with a tighter editing and tighter framing. 

As is so often the case in films written, directed, photographed and edited by the filmmaker himself, Ghijzeelings' close relationship with the theme and the material suggests her refusal to tighten both the film's focus and length. 

Death due to nuclear radiation

The film opens with captivating voices and later images depicting the first atomic explosions on July 2, 1966. A tremendous atomic surge then rolled over the Murorora Atoll, leaving so much radioactivity in the fragile coral edge and inner lagoon that radiation poses a danger even in day. 

The voices of invisible witnesses tell of how they naively enjoyed the atomic explosions that brought both work and untold riches to the Ma'ohi people – the natives of Tahiti. 

"It was like being born into a completely unimaginable new world. We did not immediately realize this. . .

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Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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