Samoans and Serialmania

At the end of my last - and only - review of Silamanino, I posted this as a postscript:
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.
So here’s one of those delayed analyses (if you want to get bored).

The above-mentioned review (currently the most popular post in this blog) was for Part 1 - two years ago. Now, there’s Part 6?...  Huh?  Eat your hearts out Rocky (Balboa) and "Hurry Pottah".  At the rate Silamanino sequels are presently being produced and released, we should have Part 100 in five years’ time if not sooner.  Hey Hollywood, stop spending millions and several years to release a sequel. Go film in Samoa. We would be quite content with subtitles and with scenes of lush and paradisal scenery/settings than with special effects and nasal robotic dialogue.  And just use three GoPros and you’ll be spitting out Transformers 6, 7, 8 in no time. The sound does not have to be perfect either, I have the remote to equalize it. Also, use a lot of subplots to fill screen time instead of developing the main storyline.... LOL!  Ok, enough digressing!

Serial films
Ili lau'ulu
The serial films in the US were common before, and up to, the 1950's.  They were often short and used cliffhanger endings as a way to woo viewers back to the next episode. Lone Ranger was one such movie serial.  I remember watching these during the matinees in Samoa at the “village cinema” which was a family’s fale tele (big house), converted to a movie theater by closing all the pola (blinds) and then hang an inner lining of taga popo (copra sacks) - seam-ripped and sewn together - for darkroom effect. Moviegoers go in clean and come out, two hours later, smelling like copra sacks.  And how do they stay cool in there?  Well they used ili lau’ulu (fans made from breadfruit leaves).  Just pick a leaf from the tree under which you’re standing, waiting for the movies to start, pluck the edges in the shape of a fan and voila!

The serial films are called “ata fa’asolo” in Samoan and are often shown before the featured movie.

But the Samoans had their own serialized conception and innovation before serial films. It was the fagogo (nightly storytelling). These fagogo were told serially by the elders to the children during bedtime. Children would often massage or knead the back or legs of a parent or an elderly relative while he/she tells a story.  Each episode ends with a “to be continued” sign-off.

Then with the printed media came the “Tala (Faasolo)” (serial story/drama) in the local newspaper. I remember when it was a common practice for villagers to share and circulate one or two copies of the local newspaper (e.g. Samoa Times) for the "Tala".  Newspapers were only available in town, once a week (Fridays mostly), and so some families would give money to the bus driver to buy a copy, or just find someone who had gone to town to borrow the newspaper from.  A single copy would change hands several times among the villagers before the next issue the following week.  The "Tala" of course became the topic of conversation and village chit-chats ("talk of the village") between series/parts/episodes, especially among the adults.

By the way, I’m glad that matai titles are not serialized, just split. Really! Imagine if titles like Leota or Papali’i and many others were serialized after the mold of Tanumafili le Lua (Tanumafili II). We would have seen/heard of Leota le Luaselau ma le Fa (204), or Papali’i le Valusefuluvalu (88), and when written using the traditional Roman numerals, it would be like a Tupua CLXXXVIII, ........ Aea? (Right?)

The serialmania has moved to films and now we have Silamanino (a near phonetic translation ..ha!), queen of  Samoan serialmania.

The problem with serialized Samoan films now is that they’ve become too cliched. As a result, most aspects of movie-making and storytelling get compromised.  The plots get predictable, the stories dull and repetitive, characters become nondescript as well as the overuse of disjointed subplots which sometimes overtake and overshadow the main story. Subplots, preferably fewer, serve only to advance the main story.  But to the average Samoan viewer these may be too esoteric if not mildly insignificant.  As long as there’s a main story - or many stories - to follow it’s fine.  The more stories to bundle the better, I guess.  One is left to wonder though if there is a possibility that such a craving - for multiple subplots -  is a reflection of the faikakala (nosiness) stigma and is being surreptitiously used by the filmmakers for sales pitching. It could also be for film/story continuity especially with any anticipated offshoots. Again such subtleties may not be a big deal.  Pau a le mea kaulia o le iai o le kala i le “kama ma le keige”. (The most important thing is the story about the “boy and girl”).  And speaking of kama and keige, Silamanino seems to be adding more “boy and girl” pairings.  Is that a sign of an inevitable and gradual move towards the typical soap opera model or a native invention?  Ia make ifo ia e oukou (Y’all make the call.)

The success of Silamanino will likely make the film a pilot and model undertaking in the direction and evolution of Samoan film-making.  Some may wonder if the film will become an avant-garde, or  remain loyal to its older more conservative base. Samoa being somewhat limited in movie themes, storylines and background (so far), I guess the next natural course would be towards the soap genre, at least considering the obsession in soaps (Filipino and American) by the Samoans. My guess is that if Silamanino evolves and takes the path of the modern soap operas, with all the typical soapy salaciousness (hence the avant-garde prognostication), then there’s definitely going to be a shift in audience as well. The Samoan older and more conservative viewers will certainly jump ship (or won’t they?) while the younger viewers may jump aboard.  Ia so’o se mea a (Anything goes!)

Samoans a Sentimental People?
Is it me or does it seem that crying, sobbing, wailing and sorrow have become a regular and consistent element in Samoan films? Tautoga and Tulafale have their share of  weeping crying and sadness because of the stories.  But Silamanino and other Samoan serial films also have a number of sad and emotional moments during which crying and wailing border on an overkill.  I do believe that Samoans, as a people, are sentimental - to a degree - and art certainly imitates life, as the saying goes, but does somberness and dispiritedness have to be utilized to the point where it becomes a distraction and detraction in these films?  Or is this a proof of sponsor (funeral homes and other related services) influence on the story/script (re: previous post)?  Ia kali ifo ia e oukou (Y’all answer that.)

Finally, The Question:
And the main question for/by the Silamanino fans and afficionados now is: “Will Enoka return on Manino’s wedding day?"  More importantly, at the very moment the priest/minister asks the “forever hold your peace” question?  Hmmm... Predictability?  Yes.  But I’m sure most Samoan viewers don’t mind the predictability a bit.  They just want to be entertained, and then ...... Cryyyy!! ..... and then talk about it at church, at the falelalaga (women’s weaving group) and at the vai (pool).... with a lot of “kalofa e” interjections....

Yes. Serialously!   LOL!

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