Feature – New Zealand, Samoa / UK Première
Tusi Tamasese / New Zealand/Samoa / 2011 / 110 min
It’s not often a film is released that is the first in its language, and when it is, it’s hard to know what to expect. That being said, a film about a Polynesian dwarf would probably not have been everyone’s first guess. However, Tusi Tamasese’s film shows a lot of promise for Samoan language cinema. The Orator follows Saili (Fa‘afiaula Sanote), a dwarf from a small Samoan village whose father was once chief. However, because of Saili’s diminutive size, he fails to garner the same respect from the other villagers.
In terms of setting, Samoa is extraordinarily photogenic. Each shot captures the unique, pristine landscape of the South Pacific island, creating a stark contrast between the scale of the environment and the stature of its protagonist. Sanote puts in an incredibly solid and emotionally adept performance as Saili, resilient in spite of slight upon slight. It is also incredibly interesting to see this Polynesian culture portrayed on-screen authentically, as esoteric and unrepresented as it is in cinema. Where the film stumbles slightly is in its pacing. The duration between events becomes sluggish to the point of indolence at times, and feels like it is dragged out far longer than is necessary. Apart from the lackadaisical pacing, however, The Orator sets a reasonable standard for its successors.
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