TV3’s movie expert Kate Rodger views a New Zealand-made film that tells a story from our multicultural society.
One Thousand Ropes Starring Uelese Petaia, Frankie Adams, Sima Urale and Beulah Koale. Written and directed by Tusi Tamasese.
An impressive candidate for the prestigious Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival this year, New Zealand film One Thousand Ropes heads into cinemas for local audiences this month, and is one of our stories well worth telling.
Strong, powerful performances anchor Tusi Tamasese’s second feature, his vision once again brought to life by gifted cinematographer Leon Narbey. Tamasese has the instinct to let Narbey’s dreamlike pictures breathe, to find their own life, allowing his characters to do the same.
Like Tamasese’s first award-winning film
The Orator, One Thousand Ropes is rooted in his Samoan culture and told mostly in his mother tongue. But there is one significant difference – the filmmaker sets his latest story not in Samoa but in Wellington, in an inner city housing project. It immediately struck me yet again how important stories like these are, stories that show who we are as New Zealanders, the myriad cultures that identify us as one, while retaining their own very distinctive heartbeat and voice.
At the centre of this new tale is Maea (Uelese Petaia). A traditional healer, he is visited by local pregnant women, who he cares for on their journey to motherhood. The fractious mix of the old and the new, modern healthcare and support versus the traditional methods of midwifery, is both insightful and thoughtprovoking, as Maea tries as best he can to straddle both worlds.
He also works in a local bakery, kneading the fresh dough and trying to keep the peace between his two co-workers – one an aggressive older bully, the other much younger, and growing stronger.
It’s clear Maea’s past haunts him, and when his estranged daughter Ilisa (Frankie Adams) arrives on his doorstep, beaten and pregnant, he must confront those demons, and so must she. There is a palpable evil lurking in Maea’s home, and his daughter is convinced that evil must first be faced before they can banish their own ghosts.
There are many strands to this narrative, all woven together in a gentle and very compelling way. It’s about family, and redemption of course, it’s about new life, and death; all coming together to form an intimate, confronting and haunting story, which I found profoundly moving.
There are many strands to this narrative.