One Thousand RopesBerlin Film Festival 2017
Redemption. How much good must one person do to be absolved from their past? That is the lingering question throughout One Thousand Ropes, the second feature film from acclaimed Samoan New Zealander director Tusi Tamasese. Maea (Uelese Petaia) is both a baker and a healer, a midwife to women having difficulties during their pregnancies. Suddenly his pregnant and noticeably battered daughter, Ilisa (Frankie Adams), turns up on his doorstep. Her image is shown as a reflection in a glass door as she patiently waits for her father. A later image of Maea’s reflection in a glass window makes one recall the earlier visual. After a few stumbles in communication, they both set on a new journey of self-discovery and understanding, one haunted by Seipua (Vaele Sima Urale), the tempestuous ghost who refuses to leave Maea’s house.
Lemons and Maea’s dependence on them is carried throughout the story. His search for the perfect lemon parallels his search for forgiveness and repentance, trying to overcome his many flaws. Maea as an antihero, a man desperately trying to fix the connection with his broken daughter, is not only hot-tempered but also tolerant. The director’s choice to have the protagonist speak Samoan while Ilisa responds in English is something that occurs in many households around the world.
The use of close-ups on Maea’s hands is a constant reminder of how strong he is, these hands that have pulverised opponents in the ring. He has found a different path; instead of beating down others he uses his strength to skillfully provide a healthy passage during the miracle of birth. Although gentle and attentive to his patients’ needs, his hands are not fully at peace. At the bakery, he lets his fists fly every morning, violently attacking the dough. Perhaps the remnants of his inner demons are the reason some female patients are concerned about being alone with him.
The universal themes of redemption, family connection and fresh beginnings presented through a Samoan lens opens one’s eyes to the fragile nature of humankind. One Thousand Ropes, although at times difficult to watch – one cringeworthy scene with Maea’s toe comes to mind – manages to be a film that keeps the viewer’s attention until the credits come to an end. It comes as no surprise that this movie premiered as a Panorama Special selection at Berlinale 2017.
One Thousand Ropes does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for One Thousand Ropes here: