Tongan film Polynesian-elbows its way into cinemas this week

The Legend of Baron To’a, with its all Pasefika and Maori cast and homegrown tale, is our Friday Must See film. It tells the story of Fritz, a Tongan entrepreneur who returns to his old neighbourhood and inadvertently causes the theft of his late father's valued pro wrestling title belt by some ruthless gangsters. But it packs more than an action punch. LAUMATA LAUANO gives us five reasons to see it this weekend



The Legend of Baron To'a is director Kiel McNaughton’s, whose credits include Auckland Daze and Find Me a Māori Bride, first feature.


And boy does his directorial debut make a splash.


The film is action-packed and the script thanks to writer John Argall isn’t robotic and/or forced- so hardly any cringing that isn’t empathy pain caused by the sounds of bones crunching.


The story doesn’t just take us through scenes and sequences til we reach a somewhat satisfactory end, and McNaughton ensures that both the action and comedy are just the right amount of ‘enough’ to keep us entertained and interested.


McNaughton who also produced acclaimed films Waru and Vai with his wife Kerry Warkia (also a producer on the film) opened the premiere with an address to the audience dedicating the film to all those giants who paved the way in terms of representation to make a film like The Legend of Baron To’a in all it’s all-brown cast glory, possible.


Which is why I begin my list of why you need to see this film in cinemas with:


5. The all Pasifika and Maori cast


If you don’t know by now the importance of representation, and how much it matters, what have you been doing with yourself?


It’s the Karate Kid meets South Auckland as Fritz (played by Australian-Tongan actor Uli Latukefu of Alien: Covenant and Marco Polo) learns the warrior ways of his old Dad (played by John Tui, Battleship, Hobbs & Shaw).


With the help of his uncle Otto played by Nathaniel Lees (The Matrix Reloaded), and some stolen scenes by Jay Laga'aia (Star Wars) who plays the friendly George you already have a group of familiar faces.


Add in Shortland Street alumni Shavaughn Ruakere and Fasitua Amosa (Auckland Daze, Fresh Eggs) as well as rising stars Duane Evens Jr (The New Legends of Monkey, Shortland Street) and Lotima Pome'e aka General Fiyah you have a pretty great cast of talented Pacific and Maori actors. Keep your eye out for stuntwoman/actress Ashlee Fidow.

4. The action scenes


The action sequences are on point, the chase scene is perfectly framed and filmed to produce maximum adrenalin and laughter.


And the choreography of the fight scenes are rather intense but still retain a Kiwi feel to it. And it’s not just guys who get some mega punches in, without spoiling too much we have a badass female in the mix, even if she’s a bad guy.


You cringe at the bone-crunching sights and sounds but you can’t take your eyes away and there’s always a line or three thrown in to make you laugh or chuckle.


Which brings me to the third reason:


3. The laughs.


They’re as Kiwi as they come and not just Kiwi, but Pasifika/Maori. South Auckland/Islander humour is versatile and really serves to make the film more relateable, we understand the Baron's fresh English because it reminds us of our own parents. Some of the laughs can only be had due to shared knowledge of what makes us Kiwi, or from having an understanding of our Pasifika/Maori communities. But there are also enough universal jokes in there, and some slapstick humour to give anyone a chuckle.


2. The shirtless scenes.


No reason other than it being aesthetically pleasing and motivating- makes ya want to get your own abs.


1. To support our local talent


It all comes back to representation to be honest, and we can’t be represented if we don’t give films that do just that a chance. So go see if for the epic action-sequences, the poly-humour and the interesting plot- but more importantly see it so that our next generation can be making the next one- perhaps with bigger budgets for heartier storylines.


Watch the trailer and then go see the film.