Capturing I-Kiribati Resilience ‘Before It’s Too Late’

Lulu DeBoer, on set for her personal documentary, Millenium Island.
Lulu DeBoer, an i-Kiribati American, is creating a documentary about her family, her culture, and the challenge that rising seas pose for Kiribati residents.

For most of Lulu DeBoer’s life, the Kiribati islands existed only in dreams and in the stories she heard from her mother. DeBoer, 24, was raised in Texas, almost 6,000 miles away from the tiny Pacific island nation where her mother was born. Growing up, Kiribati “was always a mystery,” she said. “It just sounded like this distant fairytale place where there’s magic and dolphins and clear oceans. It was always really fantastical and not quite real.”

Kiribati moved from DeBoer’s dreams into reality in the early 2000s, when she received pictures of coastal erosion from her relatives on the islands. As DeBoer learned about the threat sea-level rise poses to the islands, she decided to make it her life’s mission to visit the islands and film a documentary.

At the time, few people in DeBoer’s hometown believed in climate change. “I would get in these huge debates with my high school teachers over whether or not climate change existed,” she said. “I thought, ‘OK, there just has to be a movie.’”

DeBoer decided to make a personal documentary “to reach those people in my hometown who had politicized climate change so much that they were ignoring it.” She kept this goal in mind as she studied film and music at Stanford while simultaneously pitching story ideas and drafting proposals to potential funders.

Though the rising tides threaten to wash away her mother’s homeland, they have also motivated DeBoer to learn as much as she can about the culture before it’s too late, she says. After seven years of planning, researching, and fundraising, she was finally able to set foot on the islands for the first time —> Read More