O Tamaiti – Film Presentation

O TamaitiO Tamaiti

A film by Sima Urale

Film Presentation by Tania Williams

O’Tamaiti is Sima Urale’s debut film and is about an immigrant Samoan family with 6 children living in the city. It is a drama/tragedy told from the perspective of 11 year old Tino, the eldest boy, who has the responsibility of raising his younger siblings as the parents are too busy.  The film challenges the stereotypical view of Polynesians being the perfect parents raising their children with the help of a large extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles. It is also about the strong bond between the children.

Sima has made excellent use of low and high angle shots to emphasize both importance and vulnerability.  An example of this is the opening scene where a low angle shot introduces us to Tino walking down a hospital corridor making him look much taller than he is, thus introducing his character as a boy forced to grow up to fast.  An effective use of contrast is used in a quarrelling scene between the parents where a shot of broken glass is juxtaposed with shots of the baby lying helplessly on a bed wrapped in soft blankets. This illustrates beautifully the contrast between anger and violence to that of innocence and vulnerability.

O Tamaiti is shot in black and white which makes the film visually very interesting, and gives a strong sense of contrast which adds to the drama and the tragic feel of the film.   Black and white was also used intentionally by Sima to dispel the stereotypical images of Pacific Islanders as a kitsch culture full of colourful paraphernalia, and I felt this worked very well.

I felt the film was executed very well and suited the short film format. The various elements of the film came together seamlessly; the lack of visuals of the adult’s faces complemented their lack of attention or concern for the children, and this was then enhanced by the lack of happy music and colour.  Much of the dialogue was in the form of demands on Tino to do this and do that.  All these elements worked brilliantly together to create a very strong film which made it hard for the audience not to empathise with Tino and the heavy burden he was made to bear.

O Tamaiti was inspired by Sima’s own experience as an immigrant child growing up in a mixture of Samoan and Western culture.  She is Samoa’s first female film director.

O Tamaiti received several international awards including the Venice International film festival Award for best short film in 1996.  Other films made my Sima include Velvet dreams, O Tamaiti Still Life, Coffee & Allah and more recently Apron Strings.

The promotional material, I felt was spot on as far as communicating the feel of the film.  I was expecting an intelligent and sensitive film and that is exactly what I got.

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