Sione's Wedding

Starring Oscar Kightley, Iaheto Ah Hi and Shimpal Lelisi. Directed by Chris Graham.
Running Time: 97 mins.
Rated: Rated M.
Set in Auckland, Sione's Wedding is a good natured romp about four Samoan New Zealanders who are barred from attending the wedding of one of their closest friends because they don't know how to behave.

Michael (Robbie Magaseva), Albert (Oscar Kightley), Stanley (Iaheto Ah Hi) and Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi) are all men in their thirties who act like teenagers, especially at weddings, which they ruin by their drunken and unruly behaviour.

When Michael's brother Sione (Pua Magaseva) is about to get married, he approaches the minister of their tightly-knit community (Nathaniel Lees), who reads the riot act to the four best friends. They are forbidden to attend Sione's wedding, unless accompanied by girlfriends who will modify their behaviour.

This poses a problem for the four men, whose relationships with women are either promiscuous and indiscriminate (Michael), virtually non-existent (Albert and Stanley), or fraught with complications (Sefa).

Albert's mum (Ana Tuigamala) tries to help by inviting into their home an exotic Polynesian princess (Mary Jane McKibben-Schwenke), who puts paid (or so it seems) to Albert's going-nowhere office romance with Tanya (Madeleine Sami). Leilani (Teuila Blakely), Sefa's long-suffering girlfriend is happy to partner Sefa if only her lover could commit himself to their relationship, while Stanley's chat room fantasy with the mysterious 'Latifah', takes forever to materialise.

There are no prizes for guessing whether the boys attend the wedding or not. But what Sione's Wedding lacks in narrative surprise or genuine insight into what causes arrested development in some men, is largely compensated for by the film's energy and freshness, and the colourful picture it paints of Polynesian New Zealand.

Michael, Albert, Stanley, and Sefa are first generation Samoan New Zealanders living multicultural lives in Auckland that are similar in many respects to those lived elsewhere in the global village. However, what makes Polynesian New Zealanders different, it seems, is not the boisterousness of its young men but their good-natured submission to the rulings of their elders, and the values of their community.

In this respect, Sione's Wedding provides an interesting snapshot of both New Zealand today, and the vital impact Pacific Islanders are having socially and now in the arts.

Jan Epstein is an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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