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Faifua Amiga


Faifua Amiga - sometimes credited as Junior Amiga, and Faifua Amiga Jr - made his screen debut in borstal drama Kingpin, as teen car thief Willie Hoto. He followed it with roles in Polynesian road movie Mark II and Samoan drama Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree

Faifua Amiga was born to Samoan parents, and raised in Auckland. His screen career began after the casting team for Pacific Island fable The Silent One came to his high school, to audition students. The fourth-former had never acted before, and did not get a part. But legendary casting director Di Rowan spotted his talent, and recommended him to filmmaker Mike Walker.

Walker was about to finish casting for his feature-length drama Kingpin (1985). Amiga got his lucky break. Walker made Kingpin with inmates of a teenage borstal near Levin. Co-written by inmate Mitchell Manuel, the film centres on the power struggle between a bullying inmate (Nicholas Rogers) of a child welfare training centre, and a new arrival (Manuel). Amiga plays the spirited young inmate who finds a big brother figure in the newcomer.

Kingpin won plaudits for its authenticity and acting - "every acting performance is absolutely first class" (The Listener). Dominion reviewer Costa Botes singling out Amiga for special praise: "He has an emotional control and directness which comes at you undiluted".

The following year Amiga reunited with both his Kingpin co-stars in road movie Mark II.  Mike Walker had written an early draft of this "Polynesian Goodbye Pork Pie" the previous decade, and now it was resuscitated as a tele-movie. Amiga co-stars as one of three teenagers who set off in a restored Mark II Zephyr, unknowingly pursued by drug-dealers.

Like Kingpin before it, Mark II won collective praise for the quality of its acting. Listener critic Helen Martin found it one of the best films of 1986, and the production won the GOFTA award for best single drama that year. 

Arguably Amiga's most demanding role to date has been that of Pepe in Flying Fox on a Freedom Tree (1989), based on two works by Samoan writer Albert Wendt. Pepe, the main character in the film, is torn between embracing the traditional culture of Western Samoa, and adopting Palagi (European) values. His best friend is a dwarf who is likened to a mythical flying fox, - half bird, and half fox - because he doesn't quite fit into society. The film requires Amiga to play Pepe at a variety of ages, at times telling his life-story directly to camera. 

Though reviews for the film crossed the gamut, there was general agreement about Amiga's performance. Evening Post reviewer Philip Wakefield praised Amiga as "phenomenal", while Dominion reviewer Costa Botes called his work "terrific"; "..his Pepe is a soul in torment, at war with himself and with the alienating cultural ideals of the colonising Palagi."

Flying Fox was adapted by director Martyn Sanderson.  The film got a fitful New Zealand release, but won awards in France and Tokyo. The Los Angeles Times found it "an affecting, perceptive coming-of-age tale". Amiga was nominated for a best actor award in the 1990 NZ Film Awards, opposite Ruby and Rata star Lee Mete-Kingi and category winner Anzac Wallace (Mauri).

The same year Flying Fox debuted, Amiga was seen on television screens in two episodes of landmark series E Tipu E Rea, an anthology of one-off Māori dramas. He had a small role as a rebellious schoolboy in the three-part episode Variations on a Theme.

Thunderbox, one of E Tipu's more lighthearted episodes, saw him working with Māori acting legend Wi Kiki Kaa. Thunderbox explores the relationship between a father and his teenage son.

Amiga's television work includes episodes of Open House, Crime Watch and trucking drama Roche. He can also be spotted in documentary Ruia Taitea: The World is where we are, which profiles writer Patricia Grace. Amiga appears in dramatised excerpts from Grace's short story The Hills.

Amiga's short film appearances include A Day in the Life, which chronicles events on the day School Certificate results are released, and D.S.B, in which he plays a headbanging slob who inadvertently raises the forces of Satan.