The Children

 (Sima Urale, New Zealand, 1996) 15 minutes


Director: Sima Urale
Producer: Carol J Paewai
Screenplay: Sima Urale
Photography: Rewa Harre
Editor: Annie Collins
Sound: Ray Beentjes
Harry Wendt (Tino)
Therese Fatu (Tala)
Charles Fa'amausili (Pita)
Manaia (Tom Andrews)
Julio Mel (Julio)

Reviews and notes

  • Wellington Film Festival, 1996
  • Sydney Film Festival, 1996
  • Venice Film Festival, 1996. "Best Short Film"
  • New Zealand Film Awards, 1996. "Best Short Film"
  • Telluride Film Festival, 1996
  • London Film Festival, 1996
  • Asia Pacific Festival, 1996. "Best Short"
  • Chicago Festival, 1996, "Silver Plaque"
  • Cinemanila International Film Festival, 2000

    O TAMAITI portrays the impressions of a young boy in a powerless adult dominated world.
    Seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Tino, the eldest of five children of a Samoan family, the film opens with the birth of yet another baby, and Tino must cope with the added pressure and responsibilities expected of him as the eldest. With Mother and Father figures who are heard but not seen, they struggle with mundane jobs, changing social values, and financial pressures in a new country. Tino must carry the weight of responsibilities, tending to the needs of his younger siblings and newborn baby with adult maturity...

    "One of the striking things about Sima Urale?s O TAMAITI (The Children) is the absence of adult faces. In fact, O TAMAITI might be called a children?s film if it didn?t conjure up thoughts of Margaret Mahy or Disney animations...

    Seen from the children?s point of view, O TAMAITI records the life of a Samoan family in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the parents work hard to make ends meet, but the children seem to work even harder, keeping the family together. The burden seems particularly hard for Tino (Harry Wendt), the oldest child, whom we first meet at the hospital where he and his three brothers and sister await the birth of their newest family member. In the tradition of Samoan families, as oldest child, Tino has much of the responsibility of caring for his siblings. Sometimes his life seems unfair - the younger children can indulge in irresponsible behaviour and even his parents seem more able to walk away from household cares. Yet his pleasure and grief are real when things happen to the children he loves. O TAMAITI?s ending, in which the adults fail to recognise his feelings and the right he has earned to participate in the adult world, elicits strong sympathy for his pain.

    O TAMAITI is a gentle film, full of respect for its characters and yet critical in that the adults seem smaller than the children. To an outside observer it seems amazing that the Samoan community supported its production. That support was there, not only during the film?s production but also at its cast/crew screening, where most in the audience were Samoan. Sima Urale shot the film in black and white to ?shed the stereotypical images of Pacific Islanders as the kitsch culture with colourful paraphernalia too often depicted in contemporary films?. The soundtrack, even more than the images, lets us know how the children perceive the world around them.

    As a first post-student film for Sima Urale, who studied acting and directing at Toi Whakaari and filmmaking in Melbourne, O TAMAITI is a tremendous sucess. Starkly beautiful, with substance and humour, O TAMAITI would seem to be the work of an already mature artist rather than that of a novice. It seems certain to do well abroad, especially in festivals of films by indigenous filmmakers and perhaps in festivals of children?s films.But it should not be ghettoised, for the sophistication of O TAMAITI?s approach to its subject, the assuredness of its pace and the balanced presentation of its story are reminiscent of the ways in which Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray, for example, have told stories of children and childhood for adult audiences.

    Funded by the Short Film Fund of the New Zealand Film Commission and produced by Kara Paewai, O TAMAITI was photographed by Rewa Harre and edited by Annie Collins."
    - Harriet Margolis, The Big Picture, Issue 9, Winter 1996, published by the Moving Image Centre. Used with permission.
    Dr Margolis is a senior lecturer in film at Victoria Universty, Wellington. She is also a Wellington Film Society member.

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