One Thousand Ropes

An old man buries a placenta underneath a lemon tree. Later, we see his hand gently rolling a lemon back and forth on a table, as if he were massaging it. Besides his job at the bakery Maea also works as a traditional birth attendant, a task that requires him to competently massage the bellies of pregnant women. At home tell-tale pale stains on the wall bear witness to pictures that have been removed – Maea has distanced himself from his family following a traumatic and violent episode. But then one day his daughter Ilisa appears at his door. She is pregnant, and has also been physically abused by her boyfriend. What’s more, the spirit of a woman who frequently appears to be sitting in the corner of his living room suddenly decides not to want to go back to her grave in the cemetery. The Samoan men in New Zealand-Samoan director Tusi Tamasese’s film may be big and strong but their aggression comes with a price: ‘balls are wasted on you’ says the bakery’s large female owner, who can lift the dough machine single-handedly. Unfolding in impressive, mythical images of compelling concentration, Tamasese tells a story about a man trying to face his past, his daughter and his inner 'demons’.
by Tusi Tamasese
with Uelese Petaia, Frankie Adams, Vaele Sima Urale, Ene Petaia, Beulah Koale, Anapela Polataivao
New Zealand 2017 Samoan 98’ Colour


  • Uelese Petaia (Maea)
  • Frankie Adams (Ilisa)
  • Vaele Sima Urale (Seipua)
  • Ene Petaia (Debt)
  • Beulah Koale (Molesi)
  • Anapela Polataivao (Dorothy)


Written and Directed by Tusi Tamasese
Cinematography Leon Narbey
Editing Annie Collins
Music Tim Prebble
Sound Design Tom Scott Toft
Production Design Shayne Radford
Art Director Chris Ulutupu
Costumes Nic Smillie
Make-Up Frankie Karena
Producer Catherine Fitzgerald
Executive Producers Andrew Mackie, Richard Payten
Associate Producer Michael Eldred

Produced by

Blueskin Films

Tusi Tamasese

Born in Samoa in 1975, he studied social sciences at the University of Waikato before graduating from the New Zealand Film & Television School. He went on to take a master’s in screenwriting at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University in Wellington where he now lives with his wife and three children. His film O Le Tulafale (The Orator) screened in the Berlinale’s NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema programme in 2013; One Thousand Ropes premiered in Panorama in 2017.


2009 Va Tapuia (Sacred Spaces) 2011 O Le Tulafale (The Orator) 2013 Venice 70: Future Reloaded 2017 One Thousand Ropes; Panorama

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019