I watched Silamanino, another Samoan-made movie, a few weeks ago. It certainly is on a par with Tautoga and Tulafale on the innovative and pioneering level of Samoa’s fledgling moviemaking venture. However, Silamanino is a standout and the best of the three, at least in the overall realism and authenticity of Samoan particularity.

Realism is Silamanino’s strength - in storyline, plot, theme, settings and especially the characters. And though it lacks serious conflict and dramatic tension, Silamanino’s simplicity - a reflection of Samoan life - easily makes it a favorite of most Samoans. Behind the movie’s simplicity, however, we find intricate and profound social relationships, heritage and heartfelt values such as love and respect for parents and family. Silamanino is not "hollywoody", but it excels in its own right and on its own merits as a true and exclusively Samoan film. It appeals and strikes harmoniously - more than Tulafale and Tautoga - the empirical and nostalgic chords in those Samoans outside Samoa, and with the daily experiences of natives at home.

The script is effective for the movie’s goals, although there is a slight overreach in its attempts to connect the past with the present.  For example, the aumoega (suitors) and other cultural flashback scenes (old and faded) serve the purpose of clarifying and enhancing their present day significance. But they also draw undue attention to themselves because of their length and monotony. The noisy and lofty talk among the suitors gets more-than-needed screen time, hence becomes a little disturbing and off-putting.

Notwithstanding, the script succeeds in many aspects. One of these is in the effective depiction of modern Samoa without the unnecessary intrusion of some contemporary modernities, especially cell phones. Such items will have undermined and distorted the more bucolic Samoa that the movie tries to portray and one which many of its target viewers remember fondly.

On the genre level, Silamanino is a cross between a morality play of the 15th/16th century England and a modern day documentary.
The character names which represent and personify particular virtues and values loosely follow the morality play conventions. For example, Silamanino (literally "clear view") personifies discernment, integrity and love of family. She has a clear perspective and thus views things properly within her role as a woman of honor and a leader in her village. Ti’alagimua ("straight arrow"), her father, is the ideal family patriarch who treasures his legacy and family heritage and, in turn, imparts his wisdom and knowledge to his posterity and descendants.  The influence of the morality play is also found in those plays performed on White Sundays (in Samoa) and their feel and flavor can be found in the film. 
On the documentary level, the film does a good job in its instructive approach on Samoan culture and social norms in general.  Though Silamanino has some entertaining merits, its overall focus is both educational and normative.

One of the things that sets Silamanino apart from most other Samoan films is the naturalness of the native dialogue. Silamanino (Verona Parker) demonstrates it best, especially without the annoying and robotic scripted intonations. Naturalness is also the main reason for certain memorable scenes of the movie. My favorite ones are the scenes with the “malas”("third gender" - pardon the euphemism). The conversation between Sammy in “her” office with Enoka, as well as the tausuaga (humorous chitchat) during the village access road project. Both are superbly acted and the dialogues are natural, typical and genuine.  For someone who was raised in the village, and participated in such galuega (projects), I can relate with fondness to the tausuaga by the aumaga (untitled men).

All in all, I really like this movie. Silamanino appeals to my generation and to others - like my children - whose idea and impression of Samoa is that of the idyllic place in their parents’ stories of their past and simple lives in the middle of the ocean. This is a movie I would not mind watching the second or third time. If anything, it fills the void of a certain time in my life growing up in Samoa - including the daily chores, food preparation, picking breadfruits, high school days, collecting/harvesting coconuts, my grandfather's matofi (coconut fibers for the sennit), etc.  Kudos to the Silamanino crew!!

PS: There’s the problem of inconclusive and incomplete reviews because of the serial and sequential method and approach used in making the movie. Therefore comprehensive analyses are often suspended, delayed and postponed. The best example is the conflict between the protagonist (Silamanino) and a potentially typical antagonist (Moana). It is only hinted at in Part I and so hopefully it will be developed and enhanced in Part II, which is released this week, I heard.

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