WAWATA TOPU – MERMAIDS OF TIMOR-LESTE
Wawata Topu (Women Divers in Rasua dialect) is an award winning documentary about four generations of fisherwomen striving to make a living in the coastal village of Adara, West Ataúro in Timor-Leste. Their daily lives, their economic practices and their vital concerns, as well as the contradicting discourses and social barriers they face, are shown in this ethnographic portrait that makes visible their critical contribution to the household economies and the fishing community at large. Their underwater dancing takes place in a context of rapid social change, where the generalization of the formal education, the progressive consolidation of western moral values and the potential openness of more attractive livelihoods not linked to the sea, seem to be forging a social negotiation of the household economic strategies initiated by the oldest generation during the 50’s.
The film was co-directed and produced by filmmaker David Palazón and anthropologist Enrique Alonso, funded by the SPC (Secretariat of the Pacific Community) in 2013, and with the grateful assistance of our production assistant Mario Gomes, photographer Nelson Turquel, divers Nuno da Silva and Beatriz Marciel and graphic designer Fredrik Stürmer.
Since its release in August 2013, Wawata Topu has been selected to participate at many international film festivals. It has been translated into English, French, Spanish (courtesy of Bea & Kike), Portuguese (courtesy of Fundação Oriente in Dili), Italian (courtesy of Giacomo & Julia) and German (courtesy of Jan-Patrick Fischer). The film has received several reviews by the international press, and on the 26th February 2015, it obtained the Best Foreign Documentary Award at the American Online Film Awards ceremony in New York. In March 2015, the film received the Special Prize ‘Chandrika Sharma’ at the 7ème Édition du Festival International de Films Pêcheurs du Monde in Lorient (France).
July 2021 — Featured in an episode of Culture Quest by wannabe-explorer Ian Grant.
April–May 2021 – Featured in “A la rencontre des peuples des mers – Timor : les Wawata Topu”, broadcast in ARTE TV in France and Germany.
October 2018 – Featured on “A la rencontre des peuples des mers – Timor : les Wawata Topu”, a co-production Dècoupages and ARTE TV in France, presented by Marc Thiercelin.
September 2018 — Featured on the RTL German TV program “Life – Menschen, Momente, Geschichten” (Life – People, Moments, Stories)
June 2018 — Featured in the TV series Timor-Leste from Below.
March 2017 — The film was included as part of the exhibition ‘The Sculptures of Atauro Island’ at Charles Darwin University Art Gallery between 16 March and 15 July 2017.
January 2017 — Added to the GuideDoc catalogue.
December 2016 — Mentioned on ‘The legend about the origin of a paradisiac island: East Timor’ by Radio Enciclopedia (Cuba).
December 2016 — Portuguese TV celebrity and UNPFA Goodwill Ambassador—Catarina Furtado, travels to Adara and interviews some of the characters inspired by our award-winning documentary for the RTP1 TV program ‘Príncipes do Nada‘. The program was broadcasted nationwide in Portugal on January 12th 2017. To watch it, click here and skip to minute 25.
November 2016 — Reviewed by Culture Trip: The Best Documentaries Exploring The Asia Pacific Region.
November 2016 — ‘Las Mujeres en Timor Oriental: Tejiendo resistencias’ by Inês Nunes for Public.es.
November 2016 — Academic paper ‘Linking Gender, Diving and Filmmaking: Conceptualising Film Outcomes as Narrative Capital Gains in the Making of Wawata Topu (Women Divers) in West Atauro, Timor-Leste‘ published at the Asian Fisheries Society.
October 2016 — ’20 Curiosidades sobre Timor Oriental, la joya inexplorada del Sudeste Asiático’ by Inês Nunes for RandomTrip.
January 2016 — Academic paper: ‘Ethnographic filmmaking as narrative capital enhancement among Atauro diverwomen: a theoretical exploration‘ published in Development in Practice, 2016 Vol. 26, No. 3, 262–271.
September 2015 — Added to the library catalogue at the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Cologne and the Kulturen der Welt (Museum of Anthropology).
September 2015 — Reviewed in Le Marin (France)
June 2015 — Added to the library catalogue (no. 8825) at the University of Melbourne.
May 2015 — Added to the Film.Documentaire.fr
March 2015 — ‘Trabajo femenino pasa desapercibido en Timor Oriental’ by Susana Esther Giosa Galli for La Caja de Pandora.
March 2015 — Reviewed by Roland Gillian at the UH Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS).
March 6th 2015 — ‘From the mountains to the sea, Timorese women fight for more’. by Lyndal Rowlands from the United Nations’ IPS (Inter Press Service) News Agency.
February 2015 — The film was added to Travel Documentary Films.
January 2014 — The film was added to the National Library of Australia‘s catalogue (no. 6492965).
December 2013 — ‘Yemaya Recomends Wawata Topu’ by Nilanjana Biswas from Yemaya Magazine (no.44) from the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF).
September 2013 — A muitos filmes para fazer em Timor’ (There are many films to be made in Timor), by Hélder Beja from Ponto Final, Macau.
FILM FESTIVALS & SCREENINGS
October 2020 – Screened as part of the festival “Les aventuriers de la mer” in Lorient, France.
May 2019 — Palais des Nations in Geneva (UN Headquarters), during the Community of Portuguese Language Countries’ 4th Film Festival.
December 2017 — Salon Nautique in Paris.
March to July 2017 — Featured as part of the exhibition ‘The Sculptures of Atauro Island’ at Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery.
January 2017 — 14th FIFO (Festival International du Film Documentaire Oceanien) in Tahiti (French Polynesia). The festival is part of the ‘FIFO beyond borders’ during the First Conference on Contemporary Issues of Polynesia.
October 2016 — Film Festival of Oceanographic Adventure, at Océanopolis in Brest, France.
May 2016 — Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, Cascais, Portugal.
March 2016 — 8th Festival International de Films “Pêcheurs du Monde” in Lorient, France.
February 2016 — FACA (Festa de Cinema Antropologia e Arte) in Pico, Açores island, Portugal.
December 2015 — Festival Film Dokumenter, Yogjakarta, Indonesia.
December 2015 — 10th edition of JAFF (Jogja Netpac Asian Film Festival), Yogjakarta, Indonesia.
September 2015 — Rencontres a la Campagne Film Festival. Rieupeyroux, France.
August 2015 — CAOFF (Costa Azul Ocean Film Festival) in Arica, Chile.
August 2015 — 15ème édition du Festival International du Film Insulaire de Groix, Brittany, France
August & October 2015 — EATV (Educational Access Television) Channels 27 & 75. City College of San Francisco, USA.
July 2015 — 2nd CPLP Civil Society Forum in Timor-Leste.
June – December 2015 — Culture Unplugged Film Festival in India, USA, Indonesia and New Zealand.
June 2015 — Pasifika Film and Arts Festival in Sydney, Australia.
May 2015 — Étonnants Voyageurs in Saint-Malo, France.
May 2015 — St Kilda Film Festival in the City of Port Phillip, Melbourne, Australia.
April 2015 — 2nd edition of INSTIDOC (Ciclo do Documentário Institucional) in Maputo, Mozambique.
March 2015 — FACA (Festa de Cinema Antropologia e Arte) in Lisbon, Portugal.
March 2015 — 7th Festival International de Films “Pêcheurs du Monde” in Lorient, France.
January 2015 — 12th FIFO (Festival International du Film Documentaire Oceanien) in Papeete, Tahiti.
January 3rd 2015 — Part of Timor Tales, a fundraising exhibition by Sara Webster at the Warrnambool Lions Club, Victoria, Australia.
November 2014 — 5th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture & Fisheries in Lucknow, India.
October 2014 — Intimate Lens Festival of Visual Ethnography in Caserta, Italy.
September 2014 — Matsalu International Nature Film Festival in Lihula, Estonia.
August 2014 — 37th Festival de Cinéma de Douarnenez, France.
June 2014 — 34th NAFA (Nordic Anthropological Film Association Festival), Isafjordur, The University Center of the Westfjords, Iceland. Acquired in the NAFA collection.
April 2014 — Selected in the top ten documentary category at the AOFA (American Online Film Awards).
March 2014 — Fundação Oriente (Dili, Timor-Leste), on the occasion of the International Women’s Day celebrations.
March 2014 — Xanana Cultural Center (Dili, Timor-Leste), on the occasion of the International Women’s Day celebrations.
March 2014 — FIFEQ (International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec), Canada.
November 2013 — SEPI (Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality) in Timor-Leste launched the film, as part of the East Timorese National Women’s Day, and offering the Women of the Year Award to the protagonists.
November 2013 — APERTURE (Asia Pacific International Ethnographic Documentary), Melbourne, Australia.
Visit the Wawata Topu Facebook page for regular updates. You can watch the full film below (click on the CC button to choose your language subtitles and expand button for full screen: