Taking three protagonists as examples we cast a look at contemporary Samoa: Rooted between tradition and modernity it tries to find its own place in today’s world economy. The protagonists are wanderers between two cultures: modern New Zealand on the one hand, and Samoa with its traditional social structures on the other.

The film aims at an unusual closeness to the people portrayed in it, based on the long-lasting friendship between protagonists, director and film author. The film thus will be made in close cooperation of all of them. As a result, it will offer the viewers a realistic view of Samoa rather than stereotype images of a tourists’ paradise.


From 1996 to 1998 a documentary was shot and released entitled “Destination Samoa”. It had migration/remigration as its main topic showing reasons and consequences of migration activities for Samoan society and culture.

The main protagonists of that documentary were two Samoans with deeply rooted connections to their Samoan background, both of whom, however, living in New Zealand for family as much as job reasons. The multiple aspects of that situation of living in two worlds are depicted in the film presenting two men socialized with traditional Samoan values and their strong cultural commitments. At the same time they are part of New Zealand’s society and its often completely different requirements.

Tyrone Laurenson and Michael Alofa own differing life-long traditional rights in Samoa providing them with a number of political and social status modalities. But these rights at the same time also include obligations towards the Samoan society.

Twenty years after producing the original documentary an unusual opportunity for a “follow-up” film has emerged: Michael Alofa, since 1998 rooted in New Zealand through his wife and family and a remarkable job career in public administration, has now decided to make a claim on his traditional Samoan rights, even though he intends to continue living in New Zealand. But in order to manifest his Samoan rights he must undergo a central traditional obligation: he must be full-body tattooed with the traditional pe’a in a tattoo process lasting six weeks. The pe’a will underline his claim on a matai title, which will make him a political, cultural and social leader of Samoan society. It will also strengthen his own identity as a part of Samoan culture.
Tyrone Laurenson has quit the high-ranking position as a New Zealand police officer which he held in 1998, has returned to Samoa where he spent most of his years since. Although he is by birth entitled to high matai titles, he has never accepted to undergo the tattooing process. But in order to prove his strong ties to Samoan cultures and to justify holding the matai title he has involved himself in several projects for the social and economic development of Samoa. In spite of not being tattooed himself, this topic plays a significant role in his life, if only through his son Corey Weir, one of today’s internationally best-known tattoo artists who now and then also works in Germany. By including Corey in the film, the story is carried into the next generation by someone who is also a “New Zealand-born Samoan” who now tries to connect Samoan and New Zealand art.

This setting acts as frame for the new film, showing the life of Samoans between tradition and modernity and by looking at facets of migration-remigration trying to describe and analyze the roots of the protagonists in both worlds.

Looking at this field of migration and remigration “at the other end of the world” at the same time offers viewers in Germany with its multicultural population a chance for a better understanding of living together harmoniously.

The Protagonists

Michael Alofa

Michael Alofa, deeply rooted in New Zealand by marrying a New Zealand wife and building a remarkable job career in public administration, now at age 49 intends to claim his traditional Samoan rights and fulfill obligations connected with that. He nevertheless plans to stay in New Zealand for the time being.

In order to manifest that claim, he needs to fulfill an important Samoan obligation: In a process lasting up to 6 weeks he will have the traditional tattoo pe’a applied to his body, thus making public and visible his claim to a matai title which will mark him in Samoan society as a political, cultural and social leader. At the same time it will show his connection to Samoan culture and strengthen his personal identity.

Tyrone Laurenson

Tyrone Laurenson, who has quit his position as a high-ranking police officer in New Zealand and has returned to live in Samoa for several years, also has important claims to several matai titles, although he does not want to consolidate them by having the pe’a applied. Instead, he has found other ways of showing his connectedness to Samoan culture by working in projects developing Samoan society and economy.

However, the tattoo topic is also relevant to him, because his son Corey Weir has become one of the internationally best-known tattoo artists, who every now and then also works in Germany.

Corey Weir

Corey Weir is Laurenson’s son from Tyrone’s first wife. Born in Auckland he grew up in Auckland’s Samoan community and was taken as a child to Samoa several times. As a youth he became involved in tattooing.

After these beginnings he moved, still a youth, to Japan for several years learning tattoo practices from local artists and specializing in tattoo styles representing Japanese as well as Southern Pacific traditions. Today he has become an internationally known artist combining Japanese, Samoan and New Zealand tattoo styles and making them known to the Western world.

In comparison with the views of Michael Alofa and Tyrone Laurenson, Corey’s reflections on traditional Samoan culture will offer contrasting ideas about the contemporary international relevance of tattooing in the West and its influence in Samoa today.

Marketing Concept

We want to produce a 90-minute version for cinema, distributed in German repertory cinemas. A similar use in Samoa and New Zealand is intended as well. Other versions of 45 or 60 minutes will aim at German and international TV stations. In particular we see a possible use for educational purposes in the following institutions:

Teaching, Schools, Universities

The Southern Pacific is hardly ever part of curricula in schools and universities dealing with political, social and economic developments. The film may well be included in school teaching norms and values, history, geography etc. from class 8 upwards. In cultural and social sciences of many universities, cultures and societies of the Southern Pacific are dealt with under anthropological, historical and political aspects. Here, the film will offer an example of a long-term study of social development in Samoa and the topic of migration to New Zealand.

Political Education, Adult Education

Migration movements in the Southern Pacific are mostly connected in education in Germany with aspects of ecology and destruction of nature. Here, the film can help closing a gap of information.

Museum Pedagogy, Exhibitions

Anthropology museums, e.g. in Hamburg, Bremen, Stuttgart, Berlin, Köln as well as Göttingen contain valuable ethnographic collections form Samoa which are open to the public. The film will enrich these presentations within the exhibitions as well as in accompanying film shows.

German-Samoan Cultural Exchange

Germany’s Department of Foreign Affairs supports the bilateral exchange with Samoa to preserve national cultural heritage and the maintenance of national identity. The film will here have a direct link through its dealing with the topic of tattooing.

Samoan Cultural Institutions

Like its predecessor „Destination Samoa“ the film have an impact in Samoa itself because of its dealing with themes relevant for contemporary Samoa. It will be part of Samoa’s National Museum Film Library and as teaching material at the University of the South Pacific in Apia.

Cultural Institutions in New Zealand

The film will be of use in the National Film Library Auckland, museums in Wellington and Christchurch, cultural centres of Samoan communities all over New Zealand (e.g. in Otara), schools, universities teaching Pacific Studies (and that includes the Australian National University in Canberra).


The islands of Samoa have long been in the focus of European interest. Early explorers described them as the “true utopias, the Garden of Eden,” in which everything was found that the harsh reality in the Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries could not offer. The islands soon became an important base and a focal point by sea to Asia, Australia and South America. They were claimed by the United Kingdom, the United States and the “Deutsches Reich”d and there arose numerous power struggles and conflicts over the supremacy.

With the Samoa Treaty of 1899, the Great Powers ended the clashes: Great Britain withdrew, the eastern islands fell to the United States – they still belong to their “American Samoa” – and the western islands became German colonial territory. The German colonial rule ended with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 due to New Zealand interventions, the ten islands became New Zealand’s mandate territory and on 1 January 1962 gained their independence as an independent parliamentary democracy, Samoa i Sisifo ‘, Western Samoa. In 1997, the parliament passed a constitutional change to the official name change in ‘Independent State of Samoa’ – ‘Malo Sa’oloto Tuo’a-tasi o Samoa’.

Although the German colonial rulers oppressed and exploited the Samoan people, and in 1903 a resistance movement under the slogan “Samoa to the Samoans” emerged, this period is certainly seen in Samoan historiography as positive in relation to many economic and infrastructural developments. Many Germans stayed there and have long been deeply rooted in family relationships. Because of this, there are many cultural and economic relations between Germany and Samoa, which are, however, little known.

For many, Samoa is an exotic holiday paradise, for which there is insufficient knowledge of its conditions and challenges as part of the modern global world.

Even the field of documentary film shows no current productions that are dedicated to this problem. In addition to a number of historical-ethnographic examples that deal with issues such as cultural change and cultural contact, there are numerous productions that rather uncritically serve exotic clichés or prejudices.

Country information about Samoa

Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, 2,400 km northeast of New Zealand between 12 and 14 degrees south latitude and 172 and 175 degrees west longitude; tropical

Size: 2,831 sqkmPopulation: almost 196,000, of which about 93% are Samoans, 7% are mixed European-Polynesian descent and 0.4% are Europeans; Population growth: 0.58%;

National languages: Samoan and English
Capital: Apia, on the island of Upolu with about 38,000 inhabitants.

Religions / Churches: 57.4% Protestant, 19.4% Roman Catholic, 15.4% Mormon (Latter-Day Saints), 1.7% Worship Center, 5.5% Other Christians, 0.7% Other , 0.2% unspecific

Form of government: Parliamentary democracy with traditional Polynesian elements

Head of State: His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi (inaugurated: 20 June 2007);

Head of Government: The Honorable Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, Human Rights Protection Party (inaugurated: 23 November 1998, last confirmed in parliamentary elections in March 2016)

Parliament: one-chamber parliament (fono) with 50 seats; Term of office: 5 years; last election: 04.03.2016

Composition of Parliament: 47 seats Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), 3 seats Tautua Samoa Party
Government party: Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP);

Opposition: Tautua Samoa Party (TSP)

Gross domestic product (GDP): 0,8 Mrd. US-Dollar (DESTATIS 2015); GDP/capita: 4.341 US-Dollar (DESTATIS 2015)
Currency: Samoa Tala.

National holiday: June 1st Independence Day
Independence from New Zealand since 1 January 1962;

Samoa and Germany

Germany maintains close diplomatic relations with Samoa. Development cooperation – in an emergency – humanitarian aid, as well as bilateral trade relations and the Federal Foreign Office also promotes bilateral or trilateral cultural exchange. See also: Foreign Office

Movies / feature films about Samoa

  • Sons for the return home, New Zealand, 1979, feature film, 117 min., Written and directed by Paul Maunder
  • LOOKOUT: Auckland Faa Samoa, New Zealand, 1982, Documentary, 50 Min., Book: Albert Wendt, Director: Keith Hunter
  • Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree, New Zealand, 1992, feature film, 92 min., Written and directed by Martyn Sanderson
  • Ethnographic Films

The Tatau

The national anthem of Samoa

„The Banner of Freedom“

Samoa, tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!
Samoa, tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!
Vaai ‘i na fetu o lo’ua agiagia ai:
Le faailoga lea o Iesu, na maliu ai mo Samoa.
Oi, Samoa e, uu mau lau pule ia faavavau.
Aua e te fefe; o le Atua lo ta fa’avae, o lota sa’olotoga.
Samoa, tula’i: ‘ua agiagia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!

Samoa, arise and raise your flag, your crown!
Samoa, arise and raise your flag, your crown!
Look at those stars that are waving on it:
This is the symbol of Jesus, who died on it for Samoa.
Oh, Samoa, hold fast your power forever.
Do not be afraid; God is our foundation, our freedom.
Samoa, arise: your flag is waving, your crown!


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