“Three Wise Cousins” - the latest Samoan feature film to explode into the regional cinematic limelight is attracting huge audiences in New Zealand, Australia and now Samoa.

I use the word ‘explode’ as this low budget movie has exceeded all expectations in terms of audience numbers, earnings from ticket sales and demands by fans in Australia and Samoa for it to be screened asap in their regions.

The Samoan premier was held at the Apollo Theatre Tuesday 23rd February, to an enthusiastic and excited crowd. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi attended the Premier and expressed that the movie would show the world that Samoa is a country of happy and friendly people.  

Three cheers for the director, Stallone Vaiaoga producer / director and writer; film crew, actors, Neil Amituana’i (Adam), Fesuiai Viliamu (Tavita) and Vito Vito (Mose), and Gloria Ofa Blake (Mary), and all who showed that a huge budget is not necessary in order to make waves within the film industry.

Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa says ‘it’s the movie of a thousand and one quotes, with viewers bound to be repeating the memorable lines and jokes in years to come, and being a movie made with the help of friends and family, it is of a quality that can compete with any other feature film.’

In fact since its January 28th release Three Wise Cousins has performed better than the newly released blockbusters The Revenant and Star Wars.

I joined the pushy crowd last Friday night for a screening of Three Wise Cousins. I came to see the 7:30 pm viewing but tickets were sold out and the theatre was full so we had to wait until the 8:30 pm viewing.

If you are planning to go to this movie can I suggest you pre-book your tickets and get allocated seat numbers as these are at the back to middle of the theatre. Random tickets at the front half of the theatre are often overbooked and groups may be split up. At the end of our screening the audience clapped and chattered enthusiastically.  

It is especially rousing to see our local Samoan audiences roaring with laughter to the extent that at times they miss the on-going dialogue.

It is infectious and immensely satisfying to watch a movie with the audience it was created for, where the characters are typical of everyone’s brothers and cousins. Three Wise Cousins can be enjoyed by all ages so it is a movie the whole family can go to.

The music in the movie is also excellent and much of this can be attributed to Andrew Faleatua who wrote and composed the music for the film, and lead vocalist Siosiua Afu. 

We can be proud of the talented and inexperienced cast, the astute director and brilliant musical composer. These are creative and driven people who are making inroads into areas were few Samoans have ventured previously, and to this end we are immensely happy and honoured to be Samoan and to be able to showcase our country and culture to the world. 

The story line is simple – boy sees girl, boy wants girl but he does not know how to get her. Does boy get girl? 

Adam (22) is an unemployed, spoilt son of parents who came to New Zealand to make a better life for their children. Adam is the only offspring we meet in his family, maybe he is the youngest as he is certainly indulged. He is a play station enthusiast, he makes no effort to find a job and he seems to take his parental financial support for granted. 

One day Adam sees the girl of his dreams walking down the street. It is an immediate one-sided attraction and to be honest Adam does not have many plus’s to bring to any relationship especially to a girl who is beautiful, self-assured and presumably intelligent as she is attending a tertiary educational institution. 

Adam is average height and build, cripplingly shy in front of women, unmotivated and under educated, certainly not the kind of male a woman with high expectations would look at twice.  

Adam eve-drops on a conversation between Mary and her friends (in a bus) where she states categorically that she wants a ‘real Samoan guy’ not a ‘plastic one’. Infatuated with her attractiveness and self-confidence, and although he has never spoken to her, Adam travels to Samoa to become a ‘real Samoan guy’ with the hope of eventually attracting her attention. 

Once in Samoa Adam experiences a baptism by fire into Samoan village life.  Cousins Mose and Tavita give their New Zealand born cousin an overdose of the “Fa’aSamoa, the Samoan way.”

Adam is shown how to wash himself and his clothes in the river, climb a coconut tree, husk a coconut, weave a basket, make an umu, use a sepelu (bush knife) to cut the weeds, selling koko in the market. (These common village tasks by the way may be unfamiliar to many young Samoans living in Apia.) Adam approaches these tasks with a large amount of buffoonery and seems very ‘palagi’ (western), as he does not master the skills. 

Samoan values and humour are skilfully embedded into the cleverly written script. It contains humour and many deadpan one-liners that are only appreciated in translation; “we don’t live in the bush we live in a fale.”

Alluding to Adams daily power naps they are explained as ‘when the power goes off ‘ Adam recharges (his batteries) “by going to sleep.” Samoans love laughing at others mistakes and shortcomings; love the underdog and the tensions between Samoans here and there. Samoans love slapstick comedy, and below the waist humour as illustrated when one of the cousins teasingly flashes his lavalava, the audience went crazy! 

The handsome and body conscious cousins Tavita and Mose tutor Adam who is paralysed with shyness in front of the opposite sex. Their ardent tuition seems to fall on deaf ears as Adam squirms and falters when put to the test. Adam feels defeated and returns to New Zealand before he has become a “real Samoan guy.” 

Once back in New Zealand Adam has an epiphany and realises how indulged and spoilt he is, he begins to cook at home, clean up after himself, build a garden, and look after his parents. Adam has become what he wanted to be a ‘real Samoan guy.’ 

Long story short Adam returns to Samoa to see his cousins, apologise for his cultural insensitivity and thank them for the changes they have made in his life.

Then back in New Zealand he comes across Mary at a bus stop - she admires his Samoan woven umu basket (the real thing) that is uses to carry his books to and fro his school that he now attends. Mary breaks the ice by talking about said bag. We know Adam is hopelessly shy and will be tongue-tied, so it was fitting that Mary was outgoing enough to break the ice. How the story ends well that’s up to you? 

Finally I asked friend Susan Faoagali about her reaction to the film, She loved the film and was impressed the dialog/scrip, photography, acting, story telling; the sound track and the music.

She was being driven mad by ‘that damn rooster! “What I was really impressed with was the way that the audience (Apollo Theatre Friday evening) engaged with the story.

Every single one of us in the theatre was mesmerized with the story, we laughed at the funny stuff, we felt sad, frustrated and embarrassed with each of the characters as the story unfolded.. I have never been to a film where the audience broke into spontaneous applause and wolf-whistles when the film ended!!”

Ref -  Leilani Momoisea, Radio New Zealand International; Stuff. co. nz;  https://www.facebook.com/threewisecousins

Dr. Vanya Taule’alo writes & edits the Observer Art Page for the Samoa Arts Council (SAC). Guided by SAC’s vision “to envisage a future where the Arts Sector is fully developed for the benefit of Samoa”, the page promotes all forms of art and promotes the arts in the Samoan community. For more information on SAC see samoaartscouncil.com and Samoa Arts

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