- Breadfruit and Open Spaces directed by Lola Quan Bautista
Breadfruit and Open Spaces is a short film written and directed by Lola Quan Bautista that uses the breadfruit as a metaphor for the setting down of roots by Chuukese families and for their growth and development as they struggle for autonomy through landownership on the island of Guam. Bautista’s narrative is both a recognizably broader story of immigration, community formation, and empowerment and a memorable and nuanced glimpse into the cultural and social norms of the Chuukese people.
The film begins its journey with close-ups of breadfruit trees, the sounds of a rooster crowing nearby, and chickens clucking excitedly. A woman slowly walks along a long dirt road. As the camera pans out, the view lingers for a moment on a road running through trees and the seeming openness of the landscape. We are in the Gil Baza Subdivision in Yigo village, located in northern Guam. A boy walks with a dog toward a small shack where a woman is sweeping outside. A guitar plucks out a cheerful island melody in the background as we meander through the sights and take in the apparent tranquility of the social and natural setting. Our protagonists are members of the United Pacific Islanders’ Corporation (upic), who reside in the subdivision. Most have come from neighboring islands in Micronesia. We meet a Chuukese man, who lists all the things he grows on the land: “I grow my breadfruit, I grow my banana, I grow my sweet potato, I grow my tapioca, whatever I can consume, I grow it. That’s part of me, the soil.” He learned his view of land when in Chuuk from his grandmother, who told him, “You have to take care of your land because you cannot survive on this island unless if you take care of the land.” But this intimate, living relationship is threatened when the residents are faced with eviction due to noncompliance with Guam Environmental Agency sewage management regulations. The land developer who sold the subdivision lots to the residents had failed to install the required sewage system. Faced with eviction because [End Page 581] of the developer’s refusal to fulfill its contractual obligations, the residents rallied together and formed the upic to challenge the eviction and collectively sue the developer.
This story of voyaging from the Micronesian island of Chuuk to the neighboring Mariana island of Guam is symbolically rich and may remind some viewers of a distant precolonial past in which a once-thriving network of trade, commerce, and social interaction existed among the different peoples of Oceania. Culturally speaking, Bautista observes many parallels between the Chuukese residents of the subdivision and the indigenous Chamorro people. Notions of land, space, family, kinship, food, and some traditions are similar. Other Chuukese cultural traditions, while not distinctly parallel to Chamorro cultural understandings in contemporary Guam, are nonetheless informative and insightful. For example, Bautista’s subtle exploration of gendered Chuukese cultural understandings of space—including potent issues of shame bearing on the body, with respect to clothing choices, the placement of public outhouses, and the gendering of domestic space in family homes—is all the more remarkable for her taut, concise filmmaking.
As Bautista’s story unfolds, she hints at the underlying history, economics, and power dynamics of migration and diaspora in the contemporary Pacific but does not directly engage those issues. Bautista describes, for example, how her father owned a large-scale cucumber farm on Guam and hired workers from other Pacific Islands, mostly from Chuuk. While she briefly mentions the 1986 Compact of Free Association, which enabled Pacific Islanders of Micronesia to immigrate into the United States, she avoids the more critical and controversial historical, political, and economic questions of why the Compact of Free Association existed in the first place, why it was necessary for people to travel from Guam to neighboring islands in order to...