Tag Archive for: Tonga

Lea Tupu’anga / Mother Tongue, directed by DEGANZ member Vea Mafile’o, has been selected for the Palm Springs International Film Society’s ShortFest 2024 and is in competition for Best International Short.

The film will screen in the Communication Breakdowns programme, highlighting films where misunderstandings change the trajectory of conversations, relationships, and lives. In Lea Tupu’anga / Mother Tongue, a young speech therapist disconnected from her Tongan heritage lies about her Tongan language skills to get a job. Out of her depth, she must find a way to communicate or risk her patient’s life.

ShortFest is an Academy Award, BAFTA, and Goya qualifying festival and is one of North America’s largest short film showcases. Each year, the competitive festival takes place alongside its Short Film Market and Forum, allowing films and filmmakers the opportunity to take the next step.

This selection follows the film’s international premiere at Sundance’s International Short Film Competition in January 2024 and its current run at Sydney Film Festival.

Congratulations Vea and the team!

Congratulations Vea Mafile’o (DEGANZ) for winning the People’s Choice Award for Best Short Film (Drama) at the Māoriland Film Festival with Lea Tupu’anga/Mother Tongue.

The 17-minute short follows Katherine, a speech-language therapist assigned to an elderly Tongan man with bilingual aphasia. Through their struggle to communicate, the film delves into themes of shame, belonging, and the power of love as a universal language.

Māoriland is the film’s second festival under its belt after premiering at Sundance in January 2024, having caught the attention of international audiences. In an interview with RNZ, Vea and writer Luciane Buchanan spoke about how the story is widely accessible as it explores “who we are without language”. They both shared how their experiences of not being able to speak Tongan were a driving force behind telling the story.

We look forward to seeing where Lea Tupu’anga/Mother Tongue goes next!

While Aotearoa trudges into winter, feature films Dame Valerie Adams: MORE THAN GOLD and Red, White & Brass head to the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) 2023 Spring Showcase.

This follows MORE THAN GOLD‘s recent success at the International Oceanian Documentary Film Festival (FIFO) in Tahiti, where it won the 1st Special Jury and the Youth Jury Awards. Edited by DEGANZ board member Margot Francis and produced by fellow member Leanne Pooley, the feature doco follows the candid and inspirational story of Olympic champion, Kiwi icon, and Tongan leader Dame Valerie Adams.

On the other hand, Red, White & Brass, co-edited by DEGANZ board member Ben Powdrell, is just beginning its festival run. The feel-good drama about Tongan pride and community is earning rave reviews following its very recent NZ theatrical release.

Featuring in the HIFF Spring Showcase is incredibly exciting for both films as it will be both of their US premieres. Additionally, this is HIFF’s first run with a completely in-theatre festival after COVID-19.

Along with these two features, NZ-made Muru is also screening in the programme.

Congratulations to all DEGANZ members involved!

Catch Red, White & Brass, co-edited by DEGANZ board member Ben Powdrell, on the big screen! The unapologetically Tongan film is now in cinemas across Aotearoa, sharing māfana and good vibes.

Based on a true story, the film follows Maka when he hatches a scheme to get into the sold-out Rugby World Cup by forming a traditional Tongan marching band. With plastic bottles and tin cans in hand as stand-in instruments, he must band together a group of misfits to make their community proud. What starts as a self-serving plan to see the big game turns into a journey of self-discovery and understanding of the importance of their Tongan culture.

The film has been drumming up rave reviews and is proving to be the epitome of a feel-good movie. It may be just what we all need after a few difficult years. The New Zealand Herald writes: “It’s a heart-warming and uplifting watch that everyone will enjoy” with its infectious māfana on and off screen.

Congratulations to Ben and all on such a successful release!

You can check show times for the film near you here.

Sneak a peak into the highly anticipated feature Red, White, and Brass, co-edited by DEGANZ board member Ben Powdrell.

The feel-good comedy is based on a true story and celebrates Tongan people’s passion and enthusiasm for their sports teams. When superfan Maka is desperate to score tickets to the 2011 Tonga vs France Rugby World Cup, he promises to lead a brass band as the pre-game entertainment. But with the game only four weeks away and no band in sight, Maka and his community must band together to support and show up for their team and themselves.

Featuring a stellar cast of Tongan talent, the film radiates good vibes with infectious māfana energy.

The film was shot in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington, and will hit Aotearoa cinemas on Thursday 23 March before its international release.

Watch the trailer here.