Pasifika social media influencers star in new zombie movie
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
There is nothing unusual about Polynesians playing rugby in South Auckland - unless it is during a zombie apocalypse, of course.
The Last Samoan Zombie is a new comedy-drama set to show off Pasifika-Kiwi talent and humour in a way not seen before in a movie.
Set in New Zealand, the film starts in a locker room with a group of Polynesian rugby players who are said to be very much less than average on the field.
Co-writer Torrell Tafa, who also stars in the film, says: “They are about to go face the big wide world ... but then [they’re] met with all these zombies, which is quite unexplained - but it just happens and that’s what it is.”
Although a comedy-drama, the overarching theme of the film is the personal growth within the group and the change from boys to men.
“We see a lot of faults in the boys and then in this apocalyptic world, how they cope or work as a team and ... overcome all these things.”
Tafa is better known among young Pasifika-Kiwis, and particularly within the local Samoan community, as one of the Cougar Boys - a group of friends from South Auckland who shot to popularity a few years ago when they started coming up with short comedic skits and posting them on Facebook and Instagram.
Their videos proved to be a hit because their island humour was familiar.
“Anyone who has known about Cougar Boys, I was kind of more like the director, writer and producer of that whole thing - and then I acted here and there.
“I’ve been doing social media for [about] 10 years and I’ve been writing four-line scripts in my iPhone note app. This is pretty much my first time writing anything like this.”
Also starring in the film are some of Aotearoa’s best Pasifika social media personalities and comedians - Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck, Elvis Lopeti, John Perry Te Anini and Uce Gang, real name Simeon Fiapule.
Tafa teamed up with co-writer Jamie Leef, who directed the film, to come up with ideas for a movie before settling on The Last Samoan Zombie.
‘The fact it’s us, Polynesian boys, doing this is crazy’
“From there, we just wrote a whole heap of jokes and a structure and kind of put it together.”
Unbelievably, the whole movie was shot in six days.
“We were just like: ‘Let’s do it, let’s film it. We don’t have any budget. But we’ve got ... this great team and we can try put them all together’.”
He said most of the cast are Pacific Islanders born and raised in New Zealand aged in their late 20s and early 30s - bringing a perspective of today’s Pasifika generation.
“The fact that it’s us - Polynesian boys from New Zealand - doing this, is crazy.
“I don’t know if it’s biased and because I’m Sa (slang for Samoan), but I feel like our humour is top tier and there’s just not enough of it online.”
Tafa hopes the short film is something Polynesians are proud of and is part of the online content he wants to see more of.
“The more we see of it, I think the more other Polynesians might be inspired to just put themselves out there. I can’t wait to make our Polynesians laugh.”
The Last Samoan Zombie is due for release on December 20 and will be available via online platforms.
Hero image: A scene from new film The Last Samoan Zombie: Samoan actress Yvonne Maea-Brown is surrounded by zombies. Photo / Geoffrey Matautia