Living in the stark volcanic landscape of one of the most remote Hawaiian communities, Jacob, an immigrant father and grandfather, struggles to provide for his large family.
When Jacob overhears a cancer diagnosis from his doctor he keeps the news to himself, forgoing treatment in favor of working to pay off his property which he plans to pass down once he’s gone. As Jacob’s search for work becomes more desperate however, he enters into a dubious agreement with a coffee farmer who promises him the money he needs.
His sickness getting worse and the new job beginning to fall apart, Jacob is left with few options. Sensing his own end, Jacob turns a small video camera on himself and begins to record his story—and that of his people, the Marshallese.
A hauntingly beautiful affirmation of family, THE LAND OF EB brings full circle the consequences of man’s destructive nature and lasting effects of the nuclear age with the honor and dignity of love tinged with hope.
When I met Jonithen (star and producer of The Land of Eb) for the first time, I was struck by two things. The first was how eager he was to make movies. He showed us a working camera boom and some other pretty ingenious equipment that he had made from old bike parts and other garage sale items. He kept telling us that making movies and telling stories of the Marshallese was something he wanted to do more than anything else.
The second thing was his attitude towards life and the future. After all the hardship he and the Marshallese people had endured, specifically at the hands of the US, you couldn’t detect even a shred of bitterness. He said he had already forgiven them (or rather us) and was now focused on creating a better life for his family and community by providing his kids and grandkids with a better education than he ever had. His resilience was moving and in this we saw a story worth telling. We partnered with Jonithen and began writing the script.
To tell the story, we cast from within the local Hawaii and Marshallese communities and shot a majority of the scenes in theMarshallese language. We wanted to convey a strong sense of realism through the characters in their environment and sort of let thestory breathe on its own. We shot everything on location in Kailua Kona and Ocean View on the Big Island. Hawaii is a beautiful and diverse place and I think at the very least this film will reveal an aspect of Hawaii most people have never seen.
Although the subject of the Marshallese in America raises some very important global issues concerning the effects of nuclear proliferation, I wanted the film to be about something greater than just an issue. I’ve always been moved on a deeper level by stories that focus on an individual’s struggle rather than one that solely exists to bring awareness to an issue. There is definitely a need for awareness though and my hope is that through the simple story of one man, the important issues will reveal themselves and thus impact the viewer more profoundly.
Andrew Williamson – Director, Producer
Stylistically The Land of Eb is a product of a seven-year conversation about film, storytelling and faith that Andrew and I have been having since we met almost a decade ago. After collaborating on several unproduced screenplays Andrew and I had learned to trust one another’s sensibilities. So when the opportunity for Andrew to direct his first feature presented itself we were ready to move forward fairly quickly, thinking we knew the kind of movie we wanted to make.
The first script was completed in under a month. Then we threw it out and started again, not on a second draft but a completely new story. This happened a couple of times. I don’t recommend the process (I remember Andrew literally banging his head against a wall at one point).
While trudging forward with the script we began making frequent trips to the southern tip of the Big Island to interview members of theMarshallese community. We were introduced to Jonithen Jackson (the star of the film).
As our relationship with Jonithen grew our story difficulties dissipated. The more time we spent with him the more amazed we were. From then on each iteration of the script began to mirror the realities of Marshallese life in Hawaii more closely. Letting some of our creative preconceptions die ended up giving the story a vitality and (sometimes) strangeness that we couldn’t have created on our own.
As in the script phase, flexibility is mandatory in low-budget film production and over the course of the shoot our amazing crew dealt with a number of heart-stopping near disasters. But what I’ll always remember is the kindness of Jonithen, his family and the greater Marshallese community in Ocean View.
They were so generous toward the film crew that invaded their homes and kept them awake during late night shoots.
One evening, when I was so sick I could barely stand, Jonithen’s family took me in and let me sleep in their bedroom while filming continued outside.
My hope is that through Andrew’s patient, unobtrusive direction audiences will be able to glimpse a world and a family that I feel so privileged to have encountered.
John Hill – Writer, Producer