Every Fijian smiles or cries when the Vodafone Fijian 7s team wins or loses during the World Sevens Series.
But what the team showcases out on the field in front of millions of people is nothing compared to what they go through behind the scenes in the build up to each tournament.
Rugby fans, both locally and abroad, now have a chance to see the exciting journey of the Vodafone Fijian 7s team.
Yesterday, HSBC, sponsor of the World Sevens Series, released a short film titled Sevens from Heaven, which gives people an insight into a sport that turned into a religion in Fiji and the story of a team ‘who took on the world’ to become Olympic gold medallists.
Zoom Fiji creative director and Sevens from Heaven director Bruce Southwick has spent three years with the Fijian 7s team photographing them and documenting their incredible story.
Southwick’s passion for the Fijian 7s team started when he was a boy watching Fiji’s games with his grandfather, Bruce Southwick Senior.
He started filming the Fijian 7s team when former coach Ben Ryan took up coaching them three years ago. Southwick took advantage of every opportunity he got with the team.
“I started off as a photographer but then I knew pictures did not really tell the whole story and that is when I started filming,” he said yesterday.
“I knew Fiji was different in the way they played and I knew I had to keep following them and I did everything I could to make sure I was with the team at every game.
“I didn’t do it for money, I had people helping me out like the Fiji Sun newspaper and Fiji Airways who flew me to the games where I could get every bit of opportunity to film these amazing bunch of players.
“I just wanted to get a taste of what it was like being behind the scenes with the team and at the same time I wanted to make the people of Fiji and the players and their families proud.”
This is the first time Southwick and his ZoomFiji team shot a short film and he is amazed that HSBC hired him to shoot the film for them.
“I am beyond pleased that a massive company HSBC worth over US$220 billion hired a small Fijian company to shoot this film for them,” he said.
“We as Fijians can deliver world class products and yet keep our Fijian flair and creativity that the whole world also enjoys.
“Our editor Dustin Quai Hoi is a prime example. One year ago he had never edited and look what he weaved up.
“He encapsulated all our amazing scenes and allowed me as director to shape a story to remember.
“While I was in Rio my amazing cinematographers Damien Light and Kitione Rokomanu shot all the Fiji scenes with Seremaia Tuwai’s family. Like sport we support each other and have poured all we have into this short film.”
The journey for Southwick has been worth it as he shared some of his most memorable moments of being with the team.
“The journey has been incredible and it blows my mind even now just thinking about the times I spent with the team during training. The boys were just humble and down to earth and they were so welcoming,” he said.
“I remember how they would make room for me in the van to sit while they travel to their training venue or how they would snap an apple in half and give me a piece to eat and they would even help me with my equipment and carry it to the field and then run off for training.
“It’s little things like that, that made the journey all worth it and it was such a privilege and honour to just be in their presence and see them behind the scenes; it was so awesome.”
The documentary films the Fijian 7s team during their preparations for the World Sevens Series to the hardships faced when Tropical Cyclone Winston hit the country in February to the team creating history in Rio winning Fiji’s first gold medal.
“When I was young I saw Mesake Rasari grinning so much and dazzling the world during the Hong Kong Sevens. Back then I wondered how is it possible to be so talented and look as if it is easy.
“This question was answered with this team at Rio. They enjoyed, relaxed and played like only Fijians can and my face has been sore smiling at the journey all the way through.
“It is just in us and no one in the world was made for the game more than us.
“When Fiji won the gold, I congratulated Jasa Veremalua and he asked me ‘Bruce do you think the people back in Fiji will be happy?’ I said my brother they will smile till the day they die about this moment.
“That goes to show how humble and down to earth they were, that even though they won a gold at the Rio Olympics they still had the people back home in mind and all they wanted to do was make them proud and happy and they did.”
Southwick describes his journey with the team a “labour of love” and thanked Ben Ryan and Osea Kolinisau for allowing him the opportunity to be with them.
“It has been a labour of love for me and has been a long time of filming and editing and to put that into this documentary is a capsule of history for Fiji,” he said.
“I wanted to do this to have something the people of Fiji can be proud of but again I am humbled and I still can’t believe I was there shooting all this stuff.
“I am so thankful to Ryan and Kolinisau for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to there with them.
“I hope this will inspire anyone who watches it and be a reminder to the people of Fiji that anything can be achieved and that dreams can come true no matter what you do.”
Edited by Osea Bola