One Thousand Ropes

Once known as ‘the Lion’ when he was a Samoan fighter, Maea now concentrates on bread-baking and midwifery. By practising traditional Samoan childbirth techniques, he seeks to make amends for his violent past – a past which also destroyed his family. Seipua, a spirit that enters pregnant women’s wombs, takes up residence in his sparsely furnished flat and forces Maea to remember all the women in his life that he has hurt. As the haunting begins, Maea’s estranged daughter, now pregnant, returns, intensifying Seipua’s presence.
Set against the grey backdrop of a Wellington suburb, this film describes the effects of a violent history and the discrimination experienced by many Samoan migrants during the 1970s. Somehow, the past is always present. Intimate close-ups of faces, hands and bellies being massaged convey how pleasure and pain, and individual and collective histories are all felt in the body. Juxtaposing quietness with moments of violent outbursts and animated sequences, director Tusi Tamasese and cinematographer Leon Narbey have created a visually evocative story of one man’s attempt to address his past wrongs in order to build a more hopeful future.
by Tusi Tamasese
with Frankie Adams, Uelese Petaia, Sima Urale
New Zealand 2017 English, Samoan 98’ Colour


  • Frankie Adams (Ilisa)
  • Uelese Petaia (Maea)
  • Sima Urale (Seipua)


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

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