Film re­view

TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger views a New Zealand-made film that tells a story from our mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - On screen -

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.

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