The Turtle and The Shark is based on a Samoan legend of a dedicated young couple that sacrificed their lives for the safety of the extended families. There are various versions of this story that exist in the islands. My intent was not to support the veracity of one story over another, but to highlight this particular version because of the themes of loyalty, family and sacrifice that I felt are such a beautiful and powerful part of the Samoan culture.
In May 2008, I traveled to Samoa along with 4 of my students presenting this film to various villages and giving seminars in visual storytelling at the University of Samoa in Apia on the island of Opolu. This rich experience helped us better understand the culture, and the love the people have for their elders and ancestors.
This particular legend has a current belief, that when the villagers of Vaitogi sing the song of Fonuea from the cliffs of Vaitogi, a turtle and a shark come to the surface of the sea. We put this legend to the test and the result was more than breathtaking. You can watch a documentary on this unique experience in Samoa here, on BYU Broadcasting.