Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Alofa Awards celebrating Pasifika talent in short films

Alofa Awards participants. Photo: Focal Point Photos

The second annual Alofa Awards took place in Auckland over the weekend, honouring Pasifika excellence in filmmaking.

This year, 130 students from 33 schools in Auckland, Rotorua, and Tauranga joined the Pasifika Youth Short Film Competition. The event gathered over 500 guests who came to support and celebrate the students’ stories.

Poporazzi Productions, a Pacific media company, has been organising filmmaking workshops for Pasifika secondary students since January 2022. The initiative aims to encourage Pacific learners to explore their identity and express it through film, while also providing them with insights into potential career options in the screen industry.

Poporazzi with winners of Best Film – Mele Tupou & Haloti Tupou. Photo: Focal Point Photos

Co-Founders of Poporazzi, Esera Tanoa’i and Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i say that the ideas the students came up with in the workshops were brilliant, and original – they were telling the stories that only they could tell. 

“Several films draw on the cultural identities of the students and are a genuine celebration of their identity, language, and culture. Common themes that emerged related to family, cultural identity, a sense of belonging, moral dilemmas, and climate change,” says Solomon-Tanoa’i.

“Not only were the stories of high quality, but they were also incredibly diverse. There were comedies, documentaries, dramas, animations, and even a “Western”, demonstrating that Pacific students should not be pigeon-holed or thought of as a monolith – they have a broad range of experiences and stories to tell,” says Solomon-Tanoa’i.

Alofa awards presenters from Screen industry. Photo: Focal Point Photos

The films showcased a wide variety of genres, from comedies and documentaries to dramas and animations. Judges from the screen industry, including Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa, Vea Mafile’o, and Nicole Whippy, reviewed the films and awarded the top prize to “Hounga ‘ia,” a powerful documentary narrated in Tongan.

Translated the film title means “Be grateful.” The film was directed by Mele Tupou of St Pius X School in Glen Innes, about her classmate Haloti Tupou who is a wheelchair user. 

The film’s empowering message for viewers is that you don’t need to change yourself to fit in. “You are perfect just the way you are,” says Haloti Tupou.

Winners received valuable prizes to support their filmmaking journeys, along with a statuette called an “Alofa award,” symbolising the love the youth poured into their films. The awards ceremony not only celebrated creativity but also offered inspiration to the students, showing them a potential path in the screen industry.

“Many of our screen artists made it in their field during a period when there were few Pasifika role models in the industry. The time they’ve given to our youth, gives them a glimpse of what might be possible for them in the future,” says Tanoa’i.

The winners received prizes that will help them continue their filmmaking journeys as well as a statuette called an “Alofa award,” which is the Samoan word for love. 

“The award represents all the love that the youth have poured into their film. We designed the award to have the same proportions as an Oscar. Who knows? One day the awards may sit side by side on the shelf of our alumni,” says Tanoa’i. 

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