Maea once lived by his fists, but now old, has turned his powerful hands to healing and bread making. He strives to live a simple and peaceful life, living alone in the same housing estate as when he immigrated from Samoa many years ago.
The Orator director Tusi Tamasese speaks volumes again with this powerful character study of a father and his pregnant daughter dealing with ghosts of the past.
Tamsese drew great praise for his debut feature and his follow-up continues his trend of story storytelling, lingering, detailed shots and precise sound design. After filming his debut completely in his native Samoa, he’s now moved to his hometown of Wellington but the focus on rich Samoan culture remains.
It was an interesting watch with a group of Samoan friends from work, without the need to read subtitles some found the 98 minutes felt like two hours. But they did appreciate the cultural authenticity on screen. I love any film that takes you into a world you know nothing about, and Tamsese’s unflinching look at a traditional healer - and his matter-of-fact handling of a devil in their midst - is gripping.
Lead actor Uelese Petaia is a revelation, he hasn’t been in much since 1979’s Sons for the Return Home, but he carries the film’s heavy themes with subtle ease. And he’s supported well by Shortland Street’s Frankie Adams, who plays his youngest daughter in her feature debut.
The Orator’s excellent cinematographer Leon Narbey (who also lensed Whale Rider) returns, composing textured shots of Wellington’s rough inner city. While some may find the pace languid to the point of tedious, it’s a refreshing and peaceful change to soak in the small details. And the long shots make the few frights all the more effective. Kudos to the sound team too for the fantastic audio – there’s a scene where you hear Petaia’s heartbeat thump so loud it reverberates in your own head.
Acclaimed writer-director Tusi Tamasese returns to his Samoan heritage - this time filmed in Wellington’s rough inner-city - with a powerful and haunting tale of redemption.
Releases: 23rd March 2017
Rating: M – Contains Violence & content that may disturb
Duration: 98 minutes
Starring: Beulah Koale, Ene Petaia, Uelese Petaia
Director: Tusi Tamasese (The Orator)