Olivia Owens Wyatt first contacted Thailand Dive and Sail in mid February searching for assistance for her up-coming trip to Thailand and Burma to document Moken mythology and language. At the time we did not know who Olivia was, but when she mentioned film and Moken we were certainly keen to know more.

moken-freediver-hook

The first time our skills were called upon to help document the Moken was in October 2005 not long after the 2004 Tsunami that devestated much of the Andaman Sea coastline. Back then Yahoo.com were more focused on web content and had enrolled travel journalist Richard Bangs to direct a series of untold stories from world adventurers under the title ‘Richard Bangs Adventures’. With two time Emmy Award winning director John Grey as narrator, we headed to the Surin Islands to film “Secrets of the Sea Gypsies, Survivors of the Tsunami”.

Visit to a Moken (sea gypsy) village – Didrik Johnck

In August 2012 Thailand Dive and Sail were approached by Kate Hodal, S.E. Asia Correspondant for the Guardian Newspaper, for assistance in an article Kate was writing about the Moken and their struggle to hang on to their tradtional values in a modern world. With photographer Georgio Taraschi we set off to Kura Buri and Koh Phra Thong to film Ngui free diving and interview his father Jao Klatalee.

kevin-hayden-olivia-wyatt

Olivia Owens Wyatt

Olivia Owens Wyatt is an ethnographic filmmaker and photographer from Rockaway Beach, NY directed, produced, shot and edited Staring Into the Sun (2011)and The Pierced Heart and The Machete (2012), both released by Sublime Frequencies. Staring Into the Sun was accommpanied by a 136 page Polaroid book and CD of field recordings featuring tribal music and culture in Ethiopia, Africa.The Pierced Heart and The Machete (2012)features two religious pilgrimages in Haiti.

Olivia is the first female member of the Sublime Frequencies collective. Her films have been featured at festivals from True/False in Missouri to Milan, Hamburg, and the Arnhem Mode Biennale. Her writing, photography and multi-media work has also been published in National Geographic, Spin, Slate, and Elle, among other publications.

Moken Longtail Boats at the Surin Islands, Thailand - ©Ric Parker
Moken Longtail Boats at the Surin Islands, Thailand - ©Ric Parker

In SEA GYPSIES, ethnographic filmmaker Olivia Wyatt (Staring into the Sun) offers an experimental feature-length documentary exploring the culture of one of the smallest ethnic minority groups in Asia, the Moken of Thailand and Burma. Moken life revolves entirely around water, but a variety of local and global sociopolitical groups seek to strip the Moken of their indigenous beliefs and daily practices. Shot on color Super 8mm film and lyrically structured to feature Moken folklore as a central audio and visual device, SEA GYPSIES is a highly intimate and radical verite portrait of the Moken, preserving, sharing, and celebrating their unique aquatic existence. Sea Gypsies has fiscal sponsorship from Women Make Movies. The Executive Producer is Will Oldham (American musician and Actor). The Producers are Kim Sherman (Sun Don’t Shine & A Teacher) and Elisabeth Holmes (Kickstarter Film & Program Director and Producer of Welcome to Pinehill).

Thailand Dive and Sail are very excited to be working with Olivia Wyatt and Director of Photography Kevin Hayden on their current Moken film. Handling logistics to visit and film underwater at the Surin Islands is an interesting and rewarding aspect of our work. It also gives us the opportunity to spend more time with the Moken. In between shoots I mananged to get a couple of interviews with some of the villagers. The interviews will feature on the See and Sea Website in the near future.

By Ric Parker

moken-children-surin