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ORATOR, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Samoan dwarf Saili (Fiaola Sanute), an unassuming taro farmer, lives happily with his beautiful wife Vaaiga (Tausili Puchpara) and her teenage daughter Litia (Salamasina Mataia). Their existence, whilst happy and peaceful; is unconventional. Vaaiga has been banished from her ancestral village for many years. Saili faces serious threats to his plantation as well as his family and has been denied his father's chiefly title. Life is further complicated by Litia's blossoming beauty that is getting the attention of the young men in the village. Matters ultimately come to a head, requiring Saili to speak up, speak out and defend all that he holds precious.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In the smallest village in Samoa, the human condition is largely the same as in the biggest city across the world. The Orator's modest scale shouldn't be underestimated, for the film deals with some of the eternal truths of humanity, ranging from belonging to betrayal, courage to bigotry. And illicit teenage romances.

But of course, the film is also a wonderful insight into a culture most of us don't know anything about, through the smallest details and nuances of behaviour. Traditions and ritual rule lives even today, and breaking village laws unleashes punishment. And then there is redemption.

The Orator, as the title implies, is ultimately about the power of words to convey feelings and how those feelings engineer human behaviour.

Yet for all its intricacies and interest, the screenplay is a little opaque at times, and the story elements fade from our vision like ghosts of the elders so revered by this community. We also have to change cultural gears to fully comprehend the nature of the love between Saili (Fiaola Sanute) and hiswife Vaaiga (Tausili Puchpara), expressed only by a few tender moments when he washes her shoulders with moistened pandanus leaves.

These shortcomings are overshadowed by terrific, raw but naturalistic performances and a tremendous sense of the place, thanks to well chosen Samoan locations on the island of Upolu.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ORATOR, THE (PG)
(NZ, 2011)

O le tulefale

CAST: Fiaula Sanote, Tausili Pushparaj, Salamasina Mataia, Iaota Tanielu

PRODUCER: Catherine Fitzgerald

DIRECTOR: Tusi Tamasese

SCRIPT: Tusi Tamasese

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Leon Narbey

EDITOR: Simon Price

MUSIC: Tim Prebble

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rob Astley

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 17, 2011







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