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'The Orator' Named New Zealand's First Foreign-Language Oscar Entry

The Samoan-language feature picked up a special mention at the Venice Film Festival in August.

SYDNEY -- Samoan-language feature The Orator (O Le Tulafale), is New Zealand’s first-ever entry into the best foreign-language film category for the 84th Academy Awards,  the New Zealand Film Commission confirmed Thursday.

The Orator, which tells the story of Saili, a small man with a big heart, who must find the strength to speak up for those that he loves, recently had its world première at the Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded a special mention in the Orizzonti Competition section. Judges there said the debut feature from Tusi Tamasese “expands the border of cinema with this mystical tale of brave individuals negotiating the politics of community in the Samoan countryside. A culture unfamiliar to many takes the screen with striking images and anecdotal flair. Following his first feature, we look forward to his next film.”

New Zealand Film Commission CEO Graeme Mason, who is on the AMPAS NZ selection committee, said: “This is the first time New Zealand has submitted a film for consideration for the Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards.  The selection of this film by a committee of such calibre is a further endorsement of the special qualities of this beautiful film and could provide a terrific platform for Tusi’s career as a filmmaker.”

The New Zealand Oscar Selection Committee, which includes Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Ngila Dickson, Grant Major, Keisha Castle-Hughes, David Coulson, Graeme Mason and John Toon, ratified the choice of The Orator as NZ’s official entry.

The Orator was financed by the New Zealand Film Commission with assistance from the Government of Samoa. It is being distributed in New Zealand by Transmission Films, where its set for commercial release on Oct. 6. NZ Film, the sales arm of the NZFC, is handling worldwide sales of the film.

It is the first-ever feature made in and about Samoa. Announcing the film last year Samoa’s deputy prime minister Misa Telefoni said the film “will bring the finest aspects of traditions of our Samoan culture into the international spotlight.”