The wait is over for Samoan fans of the highly anticipated movie ‘Three Wise Cousins’.
Today, the Director and the cast are in the country to deliver the movie themselves. There will be a special screening for invitees only at the Apollo Cinemas tonight, ahead of the official premier on Thursday night.
The movie is about a Samoan boy who had a New Zealand upbringing and in order to impress a girl back in New Zealand, he had to come to Samoa learn to be 'a real island guy.'
The locals who star in the movie are former Mr. Lavalava contestants, Fesui Viliamu and Vito Vito.
For Director, Stallone Vaiaoga Ioasa, he said the movie is about promoting Samoa and her culture.
“I have always wanted to make a feature film in a unique way to portray Samoa,” he said.
“I have also always had the tradition and the fa’asamoa at heart so I was just looking for a way to put it into a feature film that’s entertaining, without compromising it.”
Another key purpose for the film was to give Samoans living abroad a taste of their culture and a new appreciation of their roots.
“I do a lot of work mentoring in New Zealand and so I kind of see the Pacific Island youths detached from their culture,” said the Director.
“I wanted to try and teach them or show them Samoa to get them interested. This was like a bridge, an opportunity for them.”
The entire film was self-funded, costing around $80,000 to produce.
“Three Wise Cousins is a self funded film meaning that I no longer have money in my bank (account),” Mr. Ioasa said.
“It’s unusual for a feature length film to be made in this way because usually you need assistance from New Zealand Film Commission or a very large private investor.
“My friends and family came onboard and did so freely. My friends are very talented industry specialists and they gave up their time to come to Samoa for about three weeks and to help out with everything.
“We had a small crew, about seven people and then my parents took two weeks off work to come and help with the food and to wash our undies while we were filming. The experience was very demanding and with very little room for errors.
“It was also about proving that it can be done; it wasn’t an easy journey but I knew it was possible.”
There was another reason Mr. Ioasa was keen to fund the project.
“I don’t think I would have been able to make it the way it is without it being self-funded,” he said. “To come to Samoa and have these Samoans lead, I wouldn’t have had that control. So for me it was about creative control.”
The feature film has so far been a huge hit. It has collected $510,000 within the first three weeks. In Australia, they have hit the $210,000 mark within the first three days of release.
But this wasn’t without a few bumps along the way.
“The biggest obstacles we’ve faced in terms of getting the film out in cinemas was proving that there was an audience for it,” Mr. Ioasa said.
“After four weeks of release, it was easy to see that there is an audience and that box office has proven that not only Samoans but many other islanders have come to enjoy the film.”
After releasing the film in New Zealand, Australia and now Samoa, they are now looking at Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, American Samoa and other Pacific islands.
Asked how the local talents were spotted, Mr. Ioasa said Fesui and Vito were naturals.
“They were always themselves yet they were charismatic and they were hard working,” he said. “I didn’t audition them because I had a gut feeling and when I asked them they said yes because I was feeding them lunch at the time.
“I also took a risk with Neil Amituanai (Acts as one of the cousins) which was nice because it was his first time in Samoa so both he and his character were learning more about his culture.”
The film has been so successful that people are now asking for Part II. Some have suggested a sequel with female cousins.
“That is the next step in terms of moving forward but this time I will be able to pay my crew.”
For actor Vito who plays cousin Mose, he said it has been a great learning experience.
Fesui who plays cousin Tavita said being part of the film means he had the opportunity to remind Samoans overseas about life back at home.
As for Amituanai who plays cousin Adam, he said: “New Zealand’s heat is enough for me so when I stepped off the plane in Samoa, the heat hit me like a tonne of bricks. To make it worse, my character couldn’t get darker so I had to wear a jersey and stay away from the sun.”