AMERICAN SAMOA’S FIRST HOMEGROWN FEATURE FILM PREMIERES SATURDAY
The first ever feature length film written, produced, directed and cast by natives of American Samoa and filmed on site in the territory will be featured during a red carpet premier scheduled for Saturday, July 6 at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium (Fale Laumei) at 4 p.m. and again at 6 p.m.
Entitled “Heart to Heart” or “Fatu o le Alofa,” the film is a compelling dramatic movie that centers around the story of a mother and daughter who deal with the trials, conflicts, and victories of everyday life in modern day American Samoa.
The film was directed by American Samoa’s very own Zena Noah Iese of Amanave and Afao, a 1999 graduate of Leone High School who went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in communications from Chaminade University in Hawaii, and a Master’s degree in motion picture and television from the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco, CA.
In an interview with Samoa News yesterday morning, Iese explained that this is the first full-length feature film he has ever directed, although he has been involved in the production of numerous short films over the years.
After completing his education off island, Iese moved back to the territory in 2006 and two weeks before he was scheduled to move to the mainland to pursue a career in the film industry, he was hired by the Families Student Support (FamSS) Group to direct “Heart to Heart.”
Iese explained, “I got hired right when I was ready to give up and move back to the states. After seven years of waiting, I finally got the chance to direct a local movie and that’s what it’s all about. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of talent here and locals are capable of succeeding in this industry. They just need to be given the chance to showcase their stuff. For me, my chance came after seven years of waiting and I am content with that.”
Iese said he wants to raise the bar locally, by having locals step up instead of hiring companies from New Zealand, Australia, and Samoa to direct, film, or produce local films.
“Heart to Heart” was initially filmed by another company but the results were unfavorable, hence the hiring of Iese to carry out the work. It took Iese less than two months to complete the actual filming process on a budget of less than $5,000 (unheard of— for a full length feature film).
The movie is a collaboration between FamSS, (a non-profit, island-wide student organization comprised of local students representing both public and private schools), The Association of American Samoa Artists (A‘ASA), and Navigator Island Pictures, a company that is owned by Iese and utilizes the skills of Raymond Tasi, Alex Zodiacal Jr., Ararat Afalava, and Julian Dominic Taylor-Fahey—all of whom are 21-year-old aspiring artists, musicians, and photographers who came together and compiled the movie soundtrack.
Because of the limited budget, Iese said they had to come up with a process of “divide and conquer,” using everyone’s special skills to get everything done right, while saving time.
FamSS was tasked with group production, design, and marketing; A’asa was in charge of casting, and Navigator Island Pictures took charge of all the technical work, which is everything people will see on the screen.
The two-hour-long movie was directed and edited by Iese based on the story by Mareta Purcell-Unutoa who plays the mother in the film.
Iese said in addition to the special premier event, people who are interested in having the movie screened in their villages or during a group function can contact them to make arrangements.
Trailers for the movie are already on YouTube and have been viewed thousands of times by people worldwide.
So if you’re looking for something to do with the entire family during the upcoming pre Fourth of July weekend, this is the perfect outing as the film is rated PG-13 and is suitable for teens and adults. Without giving away too much of the movie, in a nutshell, the conflict that drives the story is a land dispute between the main character’s mother and her sister (something not unfamiliar in the territory).
The dramatic piece has been likened by many to the ever popular Korean soap operas, but geared toward our way of life and the unique way Samoan people see things.
Iese thanks everyone who made the movie possible, saying, “We just want to thank everyone who believed in us enough to support this project. All we needed was the chance and we got that, thanks to the donors who gave selflessly.”
Tickets are available for purchase at Cost U Less, Tutuila Store, Laufou Shopping Center (Forsgrens), and Sadie's by the Sea. It will cost $20 per adult and $10 for those 17 years old and under (proof of identification is required).