Samoan movies are like “Soaps”


It’s no secret that the Samoan movies (ones made/produced by Samoans with Samoan themes, language, characters, etc.), despite their relatively recent nascency, are quite popular with - and affecting many - Samoans both at home and abroad.

Similarly, the US television soap operas (or “Soaps”) --  that seem to continue revolving as the world turns affecting all my children, and yours - both young and restless - in all the days of their lives, with no guiding light and then sometimes ending up at the general hospital --  have drugged and affected many desperate housewives.

Ironically there is almost nothing “clean” about these soaps. In fact I always refer to them as serial scabrous slime (sorry soap fans).

But that’s not the reason for my comparing Samoan movies to US soaps. Far from it. Considering the moral psyche and pietism of the Samoans, I doubt the “soapy” content will fly with these noble savages...yet.  The serial method, however is evident in the Samoan movie sequels of some of the more recent releases. That's one of the similarities, albeit a bit of a superficial one. (I actually have also heard some people commenting on the influence of Filipino cinema/soaps on Samoan movies.)

The main similarity has to do with sponsorship. When soap operas were first produced and aired (radio then television), they were sponsored by soap companies (Dial, Colgate-Palmolive, etc.), hence the “soap” designation.

For Samoan movies, sponsors - some of which include tourist resorts (beach fales), restaurants, companies, funeral homes, etc.- play a significant role, if not dictate much of their content. For example, how many of these movies whose plots include a day or night at a specific beach fale resort or a funeral at a particular funeral parlor/home? Therefore, following the “soaps” tradition, it may be appropriate to call these Samoan movies “funreals” ( a play on the word “funerals” of course) after the funeral home sponsors. And while such a conception may be trivial, the more obvious influence -which goes beyond advertizing and other promotions - is not.  I’m referring to the role and effect the sponsors have on the scripts and storylines. It’s quite apparent that the scripts for some, if not most, of these movies are written with the idea and plan of incorporating the sponsors into their storylines. Yes, like informercials. (By the way, soap sponsors don’t do this unless in a subtle and imperceptible, if not conniving, way.) The reason for sponsor incorporation - in Samoan films - may have to do with lack of capital and funding which is understandable, but one which may also beg the question of whether such efforts and attempts to accommodate the sponsors also stunt the creativity, freedom and independence of the writers and filmmakers.  Ia ka’ilo!

Actually they do!

Picture yourself writing the script and at the same time directed or told to build the story around particular places, businesses, products and/or commodities. It’s one thing to write a script adhering to scriptwriting conventions, it’s another to write while dictated by predefined plot requirements for promotional and propagandizing purposes.  To me, it sure sounds like soapy business - "soapy" as in slippery, soft and scandalous.   Fai aku ai fo'i!

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