Hawai’i hosts U.S. premiere of new American Samoa film 'Fatu O Le Alofa'

Photo Credit: 
Weinberg Hall
Weinberg Hall at Ke'ehi Lagoon Memorial, N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

PREMIERE SET FOR WEDNESDAY JULY 24 AT WEINBERG HALL

(Honolulu, HAWAI'I)--Fatu O Le Alofa, a new Samoan language film, premieres in Hawai'i and the U.S., Wednesday July 24, kicking off a series of state-by-state showings of the first motion picture written, cast and filmed in the U.S. territory of American Samoa.

The Hawai’i premiere (titled Heart-to-Heart for English audiences) will be held at the 400-capacity Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Hall at the Ke’ehi Lagoon Memorial on Nimitz Highway.

The goal for the film’s Hawai’i premiere is “to gain recognition with our closest neighbor that American Samoa is getting into the business of bringing stories to life on camera and that we're going all out!,” Hawai'i-born, first time film director Zena Iese told tautalatala.com.

More than 600 people including government, community and church leaders, viewed the one hour, 40-minute movie at its world premiere July 6, 2013 at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Audiorium in Utulei. A second showing the same night drew more than 500 people.

Written by Mareta Purcell Unutoa, this is the first full-length feature film to come out of American Samoa.

Iese, from Aiea, left Hawai’i and moved with his family to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland when he was about five. His father, a native of Amanave village on Tutuila island, was a member of the Air Force One crew, from the end of the Richard Nixon administration and during the administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush. After graduate school in California, Iese moved to American Samoa.

Fatu O Le Alofa, the director explains, conveys to the world, that Samoans “as a people prize and cherish our relationships with one another.”

The story tells of a mother and daughter – their trials, conflicts, and victories – living life in modern day American Samoa, reports American Samoa newspaper Samoa News. A land dispute between the main character’s mother and her sister drives the story.

“It’s a message of relationships and love in all its forms –from tough love to sibling love…puppy love, then serious love,” said Iese, an English teacher at Leone High School. “You name it. We aimed for the heart of Samoa with this movie.”

Iese holds a Master’s of Fine Arts (2006) in Motion Picture and Television from the Academy of Arts at the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Chaminade University (2003).

The film came about when Families Student Support (FamSS) Production Group, a non-profit organization that coordinates after school projects for teens, hired Iese and his crew to create the movie. Three crews collaborated on the making of this film as executive producers: FamSS Production Group, the Association of American Samoa Actors (AASA) and Navigator Island Pictures.

Rev. Samuel Unutoa oversaw the FamSS crew that was in charge of production design, location management, and marketing. The reverend’s wife wrote the story on which the film is based and also plays the mother in the movie.

AASA was responsible for casting most of the characters. Several actors were already on board before Iese and his crew got involved. A few of the actors appeared in ’Tauaso Le Alofa,’ a short Samoan language film shot in American Samoa by a film crew out of independent Samoa.

Iese owns Navigator Island Pictures, a motion picture production and distribution agency based in American Samoa. His crew is comprised of Ararat Afalava, Raymond Tasi, Alex Zodiacal Jr. and Julian Dominic Taylor-Fahey, 21-year-old aspiring artists, musicians, and photographers.

Fatu O Le Alofa was shot all around Tutuila island – at businesses and restaurants from Leone to Nu’uuli, to Malaeloa to Ili’ili, to Tafuna to Utulei. Filming took place over a month and several days, said Iese.

Production – which had to be scheduled around cast/ crew member work schedules and of course, fa’alavelave – began April 13, 2013 and was completed July 6, 2013.

Iese also runs Leone High School’s media lab as informational technology manager, teaching students how to use the internet for educational purposes and to develop skills such as event recording, journalism and photography.

After Hawai’i, Iese says they are looking to have the film show on the West Coast U.S. in places like California, Washington state and Alaska.

Following the premiere, Wednesday, July 24, showings are scheduled for Thursday, July 25 at Foster Village and Aloha Friday, July 26 at the Brigham Young University of Hawai’i campus. Organizers in Hawai’i say a venue is being sought for a fourth showing on O’ahu.

Non-Samoan speakers, there are English subtitles.

Ticket prices: Adult $15 (18 years of age and up); Teen $10 (12 to 17 years of age); Child $5 (5 to 11 years of age).

For tickets and more information on the premiere and Hawai’i showings of Fatu O Le Alofa, contact Pulefano Galea’i at (808) 375-7624 or pulefano158@yahoo.com.

Reach the tautalatala.com NEWSroom at tinamataafa@gmail.com.

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