Director’s Guide To Visiting Vanuatu’s Oscar-Worthy Movie Sets

Visit Vanuatu's Oscar movie
James Graham


Feb 24, 2022

In 2017 the Oscar-buzz was all about the Aussie-made Tanna which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

It was the first feature film shot entirely in Vanuatu, and made in collaboration with the local community on Tanna Island, the Romeo and Juliet-style movie is set in some of the most stunning locations in the Pacific.

To celebrate the film’s amazing achievement, Tanna’s Australian co-director Bentley Dean, below, shares his five favourite places to visit on his remote sets, along with key tips and tricks to getting the most out of your movie adventure.

Bentley Dean shares his guide to Vanuatu movie

1. Yakel Village

This is where the movie Tanna is mostly set and where most of the cast live. The crew lived in main character Lingai’s house for seven months exchanging stories, eating together and making a movie. It’s one of my favourite places on earth. The Chiefs say that people are welcome to visit, so do.

Make sure you visit a village

2. Yasur (Yahul) Volcano 

Every time we filmed at the volcano, the Spirit Mother, Yahul was a memorable moment for me. There was no need for CGI (computer generated imagery) – every eruption was very real and at times scary. Tanna’s young star Selin had never seen Yahul before making this film.  It felt special to capture her awe and nascent understanding as she met and got to know Yahul for the very first time. It was a feeling that I shared over dozens of visits. Yahul has many moods. It was impossible to be in the presence of Yahul and not feel our planet is alive.

Vanuatua has amazing volcanoes

3. Blackman Town

Blackman Town has got it all.  There is a wonderful market full of the island’s produce and excellent fish restaurants by the water. Blackman Town also has wonderful kava bars – a great place to get to know people.

4. Tanna Evergreen Resort and White Grass Ocean Resort

Tanna Evergreen Resort and White Grass Ocean Resort are right next to each other. Every few months we would come down from Yakel for a night or two of hot showers and a bottle of wine – luxury!

Tanna also has an amazing resort
Pic credit: Matthew Vandeputte

5. Tanna Culture Centre

The centre’s head Jacob Kapere was instrumental to the success of Tanna. He made introductions, gave advice and would come out on location at times. Sadly the centre was destroyed during cyclone Pam, but may be on the way to being rebuilt. Ask around as it’s a wonderful introduction to the island’s cultures.

So much to see on Tanna

And don’t forget:

  1. Bring all the cash you’ll need, there are no ATMs
  2. Plan to stay as long as you can – don’t just visit the volcano.  We lived there for seven months and feel like we only scratched the surface of what Tanna has to offer
  3. Be respectful – ask permission to take photos and walk places
  4. If you’re planning to stay in a village, bring gifts of food (a bag of rice or tins of fish).  It’s all about giving on Tanna and this will be reciprocated
  5. It can be cold, wet and unpredictable on the volcano. Bring warm and wet weather clothes

Bring warmer clothes when visiting the volcano


By James Graham


With over 20 years as a journalist and TV producer, James Graham has a wealth of experience covering the full media spectrum. James has a formidable reputation as a talented media veteran and worked as a reporter, script writer and as the producer of the TV documentary The Road To Athens. He has worked across newspapers, radio and the biggest flagship magazine brands in Australia and New Zealand. Previously, James was the News Director at Woman's Day and New Idea. Whether filing celebrity exclusives, or some of the biggest real-life splashes of recent years, James’ career has always been at the frontline of mainstream media. When not writing, you’ll find him at Royal Randwick, his beloved Long Reef Golf Club on the Northern Beaches – or visiting his mum in his native New Zealand.



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