Three Wise Cousins
This self-funded, locally-produced feature about a Kiwi-raised Samoan heading to the islands to learn about his culture is unashamedly aimed at the Samoan audience who will laugh out loud through most of it (the film’s hashtag is touchingly #forthepeople). But this doesn’t make it “niche” – because, don’t forget, Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world. And if the palagi viewers who flocked to the Sione’s Wedding movies are any indication, Three Wise Cousins’ jokes and charm are bound to strike a wider resonance.
Adam (sweet-faced Neil Amituanai) is the hyperbolically useless son of two devoted parents, spending his days on Playstation and unattainable dreams about a beautiful stranger. Overhearing her tell friends she wants a “real island guy”, Adam takes off to Apia to be trained by his chalk and cheese cousins (Fesuiai Viliamu playing good-cousin to Vito Vito’s gruff bad-cousin) in Island Ways. The ensuing hard graft shocks the urban layabout’s system but ultimately key lessons are learned which should translate past the typical Samoan experience to every young person in the audience.
The pacy editing and witty script expunges memories of the last time Samoa was represented on screen in the comparatively languid The Orator. Granted, this often slapstick comedy is going for laughs, as the cuzzies spout idioms and double entendres of great wisdom while ridiculing the Aucklander’s lame pronunciation. But director SQS has also crafted a truly beautiful film photographed to exploit the lush colours and authentic setting, producing a lovely (and for most of us, insightful) portrait of Samoan life away from the tourism. If not all of the comic arrows hit the bulls-eye, Three Wise Cousins is nonetheless an affectionate and appropriately light-handed treat.