Bentley Dean filming Oscar-nominated film Tanna in Vanuatu.
Bentley Dean filming Oscar-nominated film Tanna in Vanuatu.

Coast's link to the Academy Awards revealed

A VERY early morning telephone call gave Peregian couple, Doug and Gwynne Dean, the amazing news Hollywood was already abuzz with.

The film their son Bentley Dean had co-directed on a remote island of Vanuata had made history as the first Australian film to be nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars.

Tanna, based on a true Romeo and Juliet-style love story, is a Nauvhal-language film and was shot by co-directors Bentley and Martin Butler on the island.

It is one of five final nominees in the foreign language category now in line for the industry's top award.

Mrs Dean, who has lived in Peregian for 13 years, said they got the message at "about 1am this morning (January 25)”.

"It's pretty amazing that out of 80 odd, it is in the last five,” she said.

Mrs Dean said Bentley had been inspired to do something on the island of Tanna after filming a documentary on a Cargo cult on the island a decade earlier.

"The idea sat in his head for many years,” she said.

"When he finished a series for Footprints, he decided to go to Vanuatu and see what happens, never dreaming this film,” she said.

Bentley spoke to the Daily this morning from his Melbourne home and told about filming on an island where the people chose to live the traditional lifestyle of their ancestors.

"They wear grass skirts and cultivate their own farms,” he said.

Somehow, the two directors making history in Hollywood managed to make the entire film in a "very un-Hollywood like style”.

All actors were from the village and none had any previous acting experience.

"My background is documentary so essentially we employed the same low-fly technique,” he said.

"I lived with my wife and two young children in the community, just us, in huts, no electricity.”

Bentley's mum and dad also travelled to the island during filming.

Mrs Dean said the villagers were very welcoming and their grandchildren, River and Atlas, loved living there. 

"When you see the conditions they were filming in, with no lighting or super technology, it's just amazing what they have achieved,” she said. 

Tanna has already won international acclaim, winning the audience award at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in its category, critics' choice, and Bentley won best cinematographer in that same category. 

Bentley said everyone needed to "cross toes and fingers” that Tanna won Australia's first foreign language Oscar.

"It will be great if we can pull it off,” he said.