The primary installment of opinions from this 12 months’s thirty sixth annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival will be discovered here. Additional shorts, documentaries, animation, and options by and concerning the Pacific Islands’ Indigenous peoples can be found on-line via Oct. 31.
‘Liliu’: Samoa’s decolonization wrestle
Once I lived in Tafitoala, Upolu, the village’s excessive chief, Ale Sola (I consider that’s the appropriate spelling), used to inform me about his exploits within the Mau, which was an Indigenous resistance motion towards the New Zealand colonizers who dominated Samoa in his youth. The independence motion’s slogan was “Samoa Mo Samoa,” which interprets as “Samoa for the Samoans.” In 1962 Samoa turned the primary Pacific Island to expertise decolonization.
I at all times thought Ale’s tales would make for an excellent film. Now New Zealand-born Samoan author/director Jeremiah Tauamiti has taken a stab at telling this story onscreen in Liliu. Shot on location in Samoa, and set in 1920 in what known as in a title “The New Zealand Territory of Western Samoa,” the plot consists of troopers bringing defendants to a colonial kangaroo courtroom beneath a thatch roof in a fale (hut) within the Polynesian countryside. There a bewigged paternalistic palagi (Caucasian) Justice of the Peace (Peter Hayden) passes judgment over Samoans being tried for crimes towards the colonizers and the colonial state. The alleged infractions embody trespassing and non-payment of taxes imposed by New Zealand which, as a part of the British Commonwealth, remains to be dominated by a monarch 1000’s of miles away in London.
The decide is aided by a courtroom interpreter, Solo (Vito Vito, who acted within the 2016 function Three Wise Cousins and 2019’s Take Home Pay, each comedies made by Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa). I don’t wish to reveal particulars however His (dis)Honor, personifying the N.Z. colonial state, surprisingly encounters defiance that embodies the wrestle towards overseas domination.
From a movie historical past perspective, it’s fascinating to match Liliu with a traditional that was really lensed on location in Samoa within the Nineteen Twenties, celebrated filmmaker Robert Flaherty’s Moana of the South Seas. The movie was hailed as an excellent murals and landmark within the growth of the documentary, though it’s arguably extra akin to a docudrama (a debate that’s past the scope of this assessment). In Moana, Savaii is depicted as a paradise, and there’s no point out of the Mau motion for independence from N.Z. nor of the influenza epidemic which due to the bungling, inconsiderate, wild incompetent N.Z. authorities unleashed with tragic penalties on Western Samoa.
In her confrontation with the racist decide, Nua (Ana Tuisila) appears to allude to the flu epidemic of circa 1918 when she mentions that her husband was “killed.” Shot in a simple fashion, Liliu is barely 17 minutes lengthy, however hopefully, Taumiti may have the chance to create a feature-length movie that dramatizes the decolonization trigger. In 2019 Taumiti directed a feature-length documentary about an fool brainwashed by the missionaries’ faith at Tonga, For My Father’s Kingdom. Hopefully, quickly this gifted filmmaker will get a crack at making a full-length function.
The illustrated islanders
Colonialism sought to “civilize” savages, which included not solely banning many Indigenous cultural practices however even Native peoples’ presentation of self in on a regular basis life. As a part of this acculturation, the Polynesian artwork type of conventional tattooing was prohibited. At the very least two movies on this 12 months’s LAAPFF take care of the tattoo which, by the way in which, performed a central position in Flaherty’s 1926 movie, whereby the titular Moana undergoes the age-old Samoan knee-to-navel tattoo course of. Directed by Heretu Tetahiotupa and Christophe Cordier, the 55-minute Patutiki: The Guardians of the Marquesan Tattoo is about practitioners of this inky artwork of the Marquesas, the archipelago positioned 700 miles north of Tahiti in French-occupied Polynesia, the place tattooing might have reached its Oceanic apotheosis.
FilmFreeway quotes Heretu Tetahiotupa, who was born within the Marquesas (I consider at Nuku Hiva), as explaining: “Folks’s attraction to Marquesan tattoo is generally aesthetic, however there’s rather more to patutiki than its distinctive designs. We wished individuals to turn into conscious of the religious dimension and the way every motif was a key to understanding how the ancients perceived the world. Individuals are drawn to those symbols with out figuring out why. The Marquesans see patutiki as a magical manifestation of their predecessors’ previous. For greater than a thousand years, grasp tattoo artists and shamans related to the spirit of our ancestors, re-created rituals transferring mana each time they practiced their artwork.”
Directed by Mick Andrews and David Atkinson, Tā Moko—Behind the Tattooed Face takes place in a marae (Maori assembly place) the place Polynesians Bernard and Sapphire individually go to bear the laborious, painful strategy of getting facial tattoos so as to reconnect with their ancestral traditions. It’s a communal enterprise stuffed with onlookers. Bernard’s inky designs cowl his complete face, whereas Sapphire actually takes it on her chin. Curiously, the tattooist doesn’t use a shark’s tooth, squid’s ink, adze or different conventional implements, however fairly modern tools to render his illustrations on the islanders on this 12-minute, conventionally made quick shot on location in Aotearoa/N.Z.
With Kalewa, unbiased Hawaii filmmaker Mitchel Viernes is harking back to Jules Verne, as he takes the South Seas Cinema style into outer area. Kainoa Kalewa (Michael Hake) is a Hawaiian astronaut on this futuristic movie that I think moderately cleverly makes use of the Huge Island’s volcanic, smoky location to nice impact, evoking an otherworldly ambiance. The notion that Hawaiians might be astronauts is completely believable: Their historic forebears had been among the many planet’s best explorers, crusing throughout the huge reaches of the Pacific, and Kealakekua, Hawaii’s Ellison Onizuka, flew aboard NASA’s area shuttle missions. For the akamai (within the know) viewer, Kainoa’s title could also be a wink and a nod towards Hawaii’s best residing navigator, Nainoa Thompson of the fabled voyaging canoe Hōkūle’a.
Along with sci-fi style conventions, author/director Viernes injects a psychological dimension into his story. Kainoa’s mission to a galaxy far, far-off can also be a metaphor for the gap between him and his father David, movingly performed by veteran Hawaiian actor and entertainer Kimo Kahoana. Like Kimo, different forged members of Kalewa, Danielle Zalopony and Jason Quinn seem in additional movies screened this 12 months at LAAPFF, notably the wonderful function Waikiki. Viernes’s 17-minute Kalewa is intelligent on a number of ranges and, like a few of the Pageant’s different shorts, leaves the hungry viewer with an urge for food to see extra. Hopefully, Viernes will get the chance to shoot a full-length function and conjure up his personal mysterious islands.
Lots of the Pacific Islander shorts will be seen via Oct. 31 at LAAPFF’s Pacific Cinewaves pay-what-you-can link.