So I took my Mom to see this movie during its first public screening in Samoa at Apollo Cinemas. It was quite full, surprisingly mostly of young people with a smattering of geriatrics, including yours truly and her Mom. The old lady wore her blue salwar kameez from Oman, so you know she was excited.
Like anything Tusi Tamasese touches this one is no different, the cinematography is amazing, the storyline captivating and the selection of actors were diverse and very talented.
Tuiasau and Urale were something to behold, their talent shone through and made this film what it is.
This is a true Samoan horror film, it had the spirit of the dead, the nifo, the open grave, the nightmares assisted by said spirit and pregnancies right left and centre without a father in sight.
Of course it was a unique experience watching this film in Samoa – because, well, how shall I say this – we see things in a different way.
Ultimately this film was about violence - entrenched, spoken, instilled, delivered and sustained violence in the psyche of New Zealand Samoans and Samoans in general, no matter where they reside.
Every violent word uttered was met with laughter in our audience. At one point during the film an older man said to a younger one: “I will rip out all your teeth.” I laughed so loud, it took me a good ten seconds to calm down. This was the same for many other scenes that had equally violent language, but I was not alone, we all collectively laughed at the violent language, at the actions and at the inferences of violence. It once again drove home to me how sick we all are – that we have normalized this so much it is comical. It seems, by our loud laughter, that we do enjoy violence and it is so much a casual part of who we are as Samoans that watching violent threats, violence played out and anticipation of violence was pure entertainment. We are the people who laugh when someone slips and falls – but at the same time, Samoans would be the first to rush you to the hospital, save you without thinking twice about their own safety. This was demonstrated also in the film, when the sister asked one of the main characters to come stay with her, or when the daughter took matters into her own hands on behalf of her father.
The movie managed to make us laugh, hold us all in suspense and then managed to scare us all when the spirit decided to cross the divide to give that famous slap in the face to the pregnant young woman. You know that slap – the one my grandmother threatened will happen to me with if I dared laughed out too loud in the night, or walk home in the dark through the village, the slap of the spirit woman, of the dead relative whose essence you insulted by being young, beautiful, loud or daring, yeah, that slap – fictitious and bloody scary – that I believed it until my late teens. It was so beautifully depicted in this film that I almost cried of sheer appreciation.
This movie took the sacred role of the fa’atosaga (traditional midwife) and gave it to a man, an old man. But I appreciated this, because my brother – Registered Nurse Lokeni Tiatia is a midwife, and has worked in Samoas hospitals for over 15 years, assisting in the delivery of thousands of babies and care of their mothers in pre and post natal units. These men do exist, and I appreciated this fact.
The film also portrayed an issue that is rarely discussed but quite pertinent. Post-natal depression, most of the post-birth scenes featured unhappy, sad, forlorn and angry women, this is something that needs to be discussed publicly in Samoa, and should be addressed through our communities and the health system.
There are numerous programmes focused on domestic violence in Samoa, and this type of drama adds value to the discussion and advancing the work on behavioral change in this area.
Tamasese has once again delivered a poignant film, with a dash of humour, intentional or not. The dialogue was the highlight of this film to me – it is rare to watch a film almost entirely in Samoan – and this one did it so beautifully and accurately, although some spoke Samoan with a hint of Kiwi accent - it was well delivered. The themes which are steeped in culture and tradition also add to the beauty of One Thousand Ropes. It captures the horror stories of my youth and demonstrates a theme that we don’t readily admit as deeply entrenched in our culture, violence. One Thousand Ropes will be one of those films, studied by students of literature and arts across the Pacific for years to come.
My mothers review: “It was good entertainment.”
My coconut rating, around ten coconuts and one coconut frond drenched in blood, because – well it’s a horror film, so it deserves a bloody frond.