Tongan Ninja

Film, 2002 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Director Jason Stutter's endearing martial arts parody (and cult classic in the making) was filmed on a shoestring on the mean streets of Wellington. Sam Manu stars as the Tongan Ninja, while Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), who co-wrote the script, chews the scenery as his arch nemesis, the anonymously named Action Fighter. The film plays for laughs - think B movie accents and bad post-dubbing - and hangs off a flimsy plot involving an evil crime syndicate's hostile takeover of a Chinese restaurant.

Weekly Review No. 140 - Easter Action on Bougainville

Short Film, 1944 (Full Length)

This intense newsreel reports from the war in the Pacific in Easter 1944, as American, Fijian, and New Zealand soldiers battle the Japanese in the Bougainville jungle. Cameraman Stan Wemyss found himself isolated with a Fijian patrol, amidst casualties and under fire from 'Japs'. He later recounted being so close to the action he could hear troops talking in two languages he couldn't understand; at one point he lays down his camera to pitch a grenade. Grandfather of future actor Russell Crowe, Wemyss was awarded an MBE in 1947 for his services as a war correspondent. 

For My Father's Kingdom

Film, 2019 (Trailer)

Director Vea Mafile'o's Tongan father Saia drives this deeply personal film. Vea raises thorny questions about the relationship between money and the church in Tongan culture, questions that caused her Kiwi/Tongan family pain. Pensioner Saia Mafile'o's dedication to raising large amounts of money for Misinale (an annual church celebration) upset his children and splintered his marriage. Mafile'o returns to Tonga with her father and siblings, to attend the Misinale and learn why the financial sacrifice matters to him. The documentary debuted at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.

Brown Peril: The Tim Porch Story

Short Film, 2006 (Full Length)

Tim Porch (Josh Thomson) aspires to be the world’s first Polynesian badminton champion — but a Samoan has already taken the title, so Tongan will have to do. This mockumentary following the ups and downs of his quest won the 2006 48 Hours film making competition. Entrants that year were required to include a mirror, a character called Robin Slade, an eternal optimist, and the line “that’s what I’m talking about”. The team behind it, thedownlowconcept, would go on to win the contest again in 2010 — and pick up a couple of NZ Film Awards in the process — with their short Only Son

Deportees of Tonga - Gangsters in Paradise

Web, 2019 (Full Length)

American-raised, Kiwi based photographer Todd Henry produced this documentary for Vice, after meeting deportee 'Ila Mo'unga while visiting Tonga. Mo'unga was drawn to Henry after hearing his familiar American accent. Tonga is now home to hundreds of deportees — permanent residents of New Zealand, Australia or the United States who committed serious crimes and did jailtime, then were put on a plane to start a new life in an unfamiliar culture. The lucky ones have family land, or a place to stay. But many start from scratch and without institutional support, old bad habits can kick in. 

Tribute to Queen Sālote

Short Film, 1966 (Full Length)

This NFU film presents the funeral of Tongan Queen Sālote Tupou III in December 1965. Queen Sālote had a special bond with New Zealand — she studied at Auckland Diocesan School, spent summers in NZ and lived her last days at 'Atalanga, the Tongan residence in Auckland. Among the 50,000 mourners at her funeral in Tonga were NZ Governor General Sir Bernard Fergusson, Prime Minister Keith Holyoake and Norman Kirk. Tongan tradition holds that the casket must never pass through a gateway; 108 pall bearers carried it over walls in a procession to the royal tombs.

An Audience with the King

Television, 2001 (Full Length)

In 2001 comedian Mike King (with Te Radar) traversed Aotearoa on The Mike King Laugh Out Loud Tour. In this final performance, at Auckland's St James Theatre, King recounts cultural subtleties en route, from Hamilton ("4WDs with mud on them!") to East Coast hongi. No stereotype is left unbruised, as King gives his non-PC bro-down on everything from westie pick-up lines, to sport and childbirth. King shares his favourite jokes: "Here's one you can't tell at work on Monday: a Maori, a Samoan and a Tongan are in a Commodore - who's driving? A Policeman".

Fizz

Short Film, 1999 (Full Length)

“In the dark and scary depths of a subway, one young man finds fear has a new name: FIZZ.” Jemaine Clement (pre-Flight of the Conchords fame) is the young man who faces up to a sentient soda machine in this short from Jason Stutter. Made for $2000 and filmed over two wintry Wellington nights, Fizz screened at festivals including Locarno, New York, and Clermont-Ferrand. Stutter would successfully repeat the combo of dark wit and dangerous appliance in his Careful with that … series; Clement starred in Stutter’s debut feature Tongan Ninja (2002).

The Coronation of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga

Short Film, 1968 (Full Length)

Taufa'ahau Tupou IV was crowned King of Tonga on his 49th birthday. This NFU film covers the lead up to and the entire ceremony on 4 July 1967. It was the first coronation in the island kingdom since Tupou’s mother, Queen Sālote, in 1918. Tongans from the outer islands had been arriving in the capital Nuku'alofa for a month. Dignitaries included the Duke and Duchess of Kent and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, plus opposition leader Norman Kirk. Director Derek Wright covers the ceremony with decorum, reflecting the dignity of the occasion.

The Legend of Baron To'a

Film, 2019 (Trailer)

The Karate Kid meets South Auckland when Fritz (played by Australian-Tongan actor Uli Latukefu) learns the warrior ways of his old Dad, so he can secure the return of his family's treasured pro-wrestling title belt from local gangsters. The Legend of Baron To'a marks the first feature from director Kiel McNaughton, whose credits include Auckland Daze and Find Me a Māori Bride. McNaughton also produced acclaimed films Waru and Vai with his wife Kerry Warkia. The action/comedy boasts a stellar Pasifika/Māori cast, including  Jay Laga'aia and Shavaughn Ruakere.