The actor died over the weekend after failing to immediately treat a serious leg infection he had contracted

By Joelle Goldstein
January 12, 2019 12:25 AM

Mungau Dain, an actor from the Pacific Islands best known for his role in the Oscar-nominated film Tanna, has died. He was 24.

The Vanuatu native passed away on Jan. 5, after cutting his leg open in Port-Vila and contracting an infection that was not immediately treated, according to The New York Times.

Jimmy Kawiel, a former official from the tourism department in Tafea Province, told the Times that Dain injured his leg on New Year’s Eve.

The actor leaves behind his wife, Nancy, and two children, according to AP. Meanwhile, his village Yakel — which is located on Tanna island — will carry out a traditional two-week mourning period, the outlet reported.

Mungau Dain in Tanna

Following his passing, Tanna co-director Martin Butler spoke out about Dain’s tragic death, telling AP that he planned to attend the mourning period in Yakel with fellow director Bentley Dean.

“I was totally devastated. He was so fit and young and gorgeous. His wife is fabulous and the kids are great,” Butler told the outlet. “He was a great example of how you can live a totally different type of life, and still be completely happy.”

In 2015, Dain earned himself a role in Tanna, which filmed a majority of its scenes in his tribal village and surrounding jungle.

With a cast primarily made up of locals who had never acted before, the Romeo and Juliet-type plot centered around a forbidden love who find themselves entangled in trouble after one is led towards an arranged marriage.

The film earned a number of accolades, including two wins at the Venice Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2017 for best foreign language film, according to its IMDb page.

But for Dain, who played himself in the adventure-drama, being the leading role in a critically-acclaimed film was something he had never considered.

According to Butler, Dain’s fellow villagers nominated him to take the big role because they felt he had the best looks of the group.

“The whole process of acting was something that he had not thought about,” Butler told the Times. “I don’t think at that stage he had seen a movie.”

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Despite going in with no previous experience or knowledge, Janita Suter, the film’s location producer, said Dain took his on and off-screen roles in stride. On screen, Suter told AP that Dain likely earned the title for the most improved actor.

Meanwhile off-screen, while traveling to promote the film, Dain enjoyed learning about other cultures while sticking true to his own customs and traditions, she said. He would often wear traditional garb to events, speak highly of his life back in Tanna, and even practice some of his traditional dances with other villagers.

“He was a really proud ambassador for his people,” Suter added to AP. “It’s a real loss.”