The fragile culture of the Yapese is at a crossroads of change.
My Island & Me is a documentary that asks the question, “Will the Yapese people be able to turn back the tide of a massive tourism development threatening to take over their fragile island home?”
Remotely located in the South Pacific, Yap Islands have remained almost untouched by the outside world. An ancient culture famous for their traditional stone money, and navigating canoes by the stars. Yapese have preserved and continued their traditions for thousands of years. Fishing, sailing, and weaving are still important parts of everyday life in villages. In some villages traditional dress is still observed; for women it’s topless and an Ong (grass skirt), and for men a Thuw (a type of loincloth).
Yet in a very short time, Yap Islands has transformed from a subsistence agricultural society, into a cash economy. A recent development drastically threatens their unique culture and way of life. This year, billionaire investors from China signed a memorandum of agreement with the Yapese government, as they are seeking to begin construction on an expansive tourism project. Development plans are for ten mega hotel/casinos, and most of the island’s jungles to be clear-cut to make way for the sprawling infrastructure. This will forever change the islands and the people of Yap.
The outer world cannot be kept at bay, but how will it transform the people of Yap? Will they lose their land and gain little of the profits of tourism, or will they be involved preserving their heritage, and creating a future for their island?