US-Tongan Filmmaker wins Emmy

A US-Tongan filmmaker and director, Tony Vainuku, won an Emmy award for “Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary” at the 38th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards held in New York City on Thursday, 5 October. Watch the film's trailer.



Vainuku’s documentary In Football We Trust reveals the social and family pressures endured by ambitious young Pacific men as they chase their dreams to become professional football players.


The film, directed by Vainuku with his producer Erika Cohn, was released in 2015.


In his acceptance speech, a stunned Tony Vainuku stated “This is a huge, huge honour…we did this with seven years of sacrifice”
Vainuku was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Tongan immigrant parents.


In an interview with America’s Public Broadcasting Service, Vainuku said that he was inspired by his late uncle Joe Katoa to produce the documentary.


Vainuku said that his uncle Joe was a top college football player and NFL prospect but was unprepared for a life outside football, having failed to progress professionally from college.


“Joe’s football successes gave our family something to be proud of, and more importantly, hope”, said Vainuku.


“Having dedicated 12 years to football, opportunity beyond the sport seemed nearly impossible.


“Joe’s parents had never expected him to hold a job and his coaches ignored his academic challenges, as long as he stayed eligible.”


The story has a tragic ending as Joe spent the next ten years of his life in prison.


The young men followed in the movie are deal with some tremendous pressures as they juggle family, cultural, athletics and religious issues.


The story is relatable to many youth and communities throughout not just the Unites States.


However the story may also resonate with many Pacific youth and families here in New Zealand, which has the largest Polynesian population in the world.


Watch the trailer: