On May 9th, an article written for The Guardian went viral which told the story of ‘the real Lord of the Flies’ – an account of six Tongan boys shipwrecked for 15 months. The article was based on Rutger Bregman’s new book Humankind, a hopeful look at history showing the more positive side of life.
The article focused on the story of a group of schoolboys that were marooned on a deserted island in June 1965. The similarity between the article and 1954 novel are obvious but the outcome was a far cry from William Golding’s bestseller.
In September 1966, Captain Peter Warner took a detour on his way home to Tonga and came across a small island in the azure sea that was inhabited by six young boys. They had stolen a fishing boat the previous June, however a storm hit during the night forcing them to drift in the ocean for eight days before seeking shelter on the island. By the time Captain Warner found them, the young boys had set up a small food garden, a chicken pen and a method for collecting rainwater as well as a permanent fire which they all tended too. They also managed to craft musical instruments from scratch and build a gymnasium with natural weights and a badminton court for their entertainment.
In William Golding’s original novel, an airplane crash leaves a group of young British boys on an uninhabited island with no adults, leaving them forced to work together to survive and be rescued. However, when issues of authority arise and the growing primal instinct of some of the boys begin to take over, atrocities are committed that exhibit the darkness born within us all.
Following the success of the article, a race ensued as major film studios battled for the rights to produce the movie, including Netflix, MGM and Working Title. Bregman confirmed that Hollywood studio New Regency producers of 12 Years a Slave and The Revenant, had secured the film rights after a decision was made between Captain Warner, the four surviving boys and himself.
It was important to those involved that the decision was made together as Bregman calls it “a Tongan story” and made clear that there were “very deep cultural reasons why these boys were able to survive – their spirituality, their upbringing.” Their proceeds will be split equally between the six, with Bregman wishing to donate his share to a Tongan charity.
Love this story. Personally, I think you should prioritize Polynesian (Tongan if possible!) filmmakers as to avoid cultural appropriation, misrepresentation, and to keep the Pasifika voice authentic. I’m probably not available lol 😭😔 #Pasifika #OurStories https://t.co/8WHjHCO6wg— Taika Waititi (@TaikaWaititi) May 10, 2020
At the moment, there has been no mention of any names of writers or directors linked to the project, however the surviving four men – Sione, Mano, Tevita and Luke – will join as consultants and most of the production will take place in Polynesia to honour the Pacific voice.
Words by Kate Goodyer