The Solar Nation of Tokelau: An adventure in documentary making

  • Ulrich Weissbach PACIFICA Productions Ltd
Keywords: climate change, development, documentaries, energy, environmental journalism, filmmaking, Pacific, solar energy, sustainability, Tokelau


Commentary: The Tokelau solar project first came to the attention of this filmmaker at a Pacific Energy Summit in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2013. Three remote islands in the Pacific becoming the first 100 percent solar-powered nation on earth and setting an example for the complete adaptation of sustainable energy sounded like a story too good to be overlooked by mainstream news media. However, research demonstrated that this was indeed widely ignored. So the author set about his usual practice of pitching the idea to his colleagues at German Television. The fact that he had already made a short documentary about Tokelau in 2006 (ARTE TV Reportage: Independence Referendum in Tokelau) and was thus familiar with the territory and its people, which worked in his favour. But funding proved to be a difficult challenge because the logistics of the project demanded a longer than usual shooting schedule and crew time. In the end, a solution was found by accessing additional funding and negotiating a bulk deal with the crew to make The Solar Nation of Tokelau (2014).


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Ulrich Weissbach, PACIFICA Productions Ltd
Documentary film producer and director, PACIFICA Productions Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand.


Foua Toloa (n.d.). Foua Toloa—Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Government of Tokelau: Administration. (n.d.). Malo ni and welcome to our official website. Retrieved from

Interview with Foua Toloa (2015, June 23). [Video interview by U. P. Weissbach.] Available at

Michener, J. A. (1951). Return to paradise. New York: Penguin Random House.

Powersmart. (2012, October 29). Powersmart finishes Tokelau renewable energy project: Power to the people—PowerSmart finishes world first project to make Tokelau 100% solar powered. Retrieved from

Sheppard, D. (2013, February 3). Tokelau leads the world on renewable energy. Islands Business. Retrieved from

Solarkonstante (n.d.). Solarlonstante—Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Smith, M. (2017, May 11). Tokelau suspends two officials following helicopter row review. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from

Tokelau: Our Relationship with Tokelau. (n.d.). New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website. Retrieved from

Tokelau Census of Population and Dwellings. (2016). Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved from

Tokelauan self-determination referendum, 2006. (n.d.). Wikpedia. Retrieved from,_2006

Weissbach, U. P. (2014). The solar nation of Tokelau. Available at
How to Cite
Weissbach, U. (2017). The Solar Nation of Tokelau: An adventure in documentary making. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 23(1), 55-64.