Tautoga Gausia - The Flaw in Sam's Death

I am convinced that the makers of Tautoga Gausia were more concerned about exonerating themselves from the ensuing accusations of promoting suicide after the release of Part I, and so the cause of Sam's death seems to have been altered in response to such accusations. In the process however the film-makers committed a flub.

Bar none, the single most riveting and pivotal event in the whole movie (Parts I and II) is Sam's death. It's the one event that gives Part I its climactic content and suspense; and Part II its footing and validation. Everyone looked forward to Part II to see how Sam died. Any yet, it turns out to be largely irrelevant and effectively disconnected from the entire storyline.
Consider this scenario:
Suppose that you only watch the last fifteen minutes during which Sam drowns while his friends look on unwilling and fearful to help; and then the resulting ifoga (apology). How much do you have to know before that point to understand and make sense of the two events? Practically, nothing!  The two events represent a distinct cause and effect incident.

Sam's death IS an accident, and therefore does not need to be placed in an incriminating context stemming from any prior acts or events. Simply, the death is effectively a disconnect from the entire story. It is a contingency and is more independent than prodigiously pertinent to the overall context of the movie. The ifoga - the main event that supports and validates the Forgiveness title and theme - is therefore ad hoc and embedded. I can understand how the film-makers seem focused on implementing the ifoga which epitomizes the forgiveness theme of Part II, but in doing so, rather hastily and without much forethought, the cause of Sam's death, connectedly, is carelessly designed.

Moreover, the fact that the culprits (two friends) do not appear until the end of the movie does not help either. These two characters are supposed to play a major part in the overall story and plot, yet their actual role is brief, insignificant and circumstantial - let alone in a flashback and backstory mode. The maladroit and trivial cause of Sam's death and the subsequent ifoga are both standalone events - take them out and Tautoga Gausia remains largely intact. It would have been better if the cause of Sam's death were to remain a mystery or, again, retain its suicidal intimations - even amidst any controversy. Personally, I believe that it's better to be controversial than to be trivial. Some of the best works of art are controversial in nature.

Suicide is a grave (pun intended) and painful truth for the Samoans. During last year's Christmas holiday season, if I remember correctly, there were about five deaths by suicide in Samoa. Had the makers of Tautoga Gausia stayed with the obvious suicide subtext of Part I, the movie would have been a voice in the wilderness for a very real and serious problem facing the Samoans.  Succumbing of the film-makers to a few critics and unfounded fears may have cost Tautoga Gausia a more esteemed, lasting and deserving repute.
Ron Silver, an American actor, director and producer said: "Artists speak the truth to the public without fear of retribution or damage to their careers."

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