Loimata, The Sweetest Tears carries off grand prize at 2021 FIFO


Director Anna Marbrook honours the last voyage of the great waka maker, sailor and mentor Ema Siope, whose journeys between Aotearoa and Sāmoa are in search of healing. Trailer: NZIFF

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The documentary Loimata, The Sweetest Tears has won the Grand Prix du Jury at Tahiti’s FIFO (Festival International du Film Documentaire Océanien).

Produced and written by senior lecturer in communication studies Jim Marbrook at Auckland University of Technology and his sister Anna Marbrook (who directed the film), it debuted at Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2020, where it received outstanding reviews and box office sell-outs.

The documentary also made the stuff.co.nz top 10 films of 2020 list. AUT students formed part of the crew for some of the Auckland portions of the shoot.

At the prizegiving ceremony, jury member Julia Overton, a leading figure in Australian film and television, described Loimata as “a film that was really well directed . . . on an
important subject: childhood trauma”.

She added: “Our congratulations to the whole team who presented this family’s story with so much compassion.”

Jury member Doc Edge director Alex Lee said: “The film’s narrative is superbly told, giving us a personal connection with the subject, Ema. We are taken into her world where she confronts issues of culture, family, the tradition of wayfaring, sexual abuse, identity, life and death.

“While her mortality is urgent and pressing, the film enables us to pause and reflect as Ema navigates these issue. This is an excellent example of skilled filmmaking and a feature-length theatrical Pasifika documentary which the world needs to view, indicative of the treasure trove of content of our region rarely seen and funded internationally.”

Healing pathway
Director/producer Anna Marbrook said: “We are so thrilled and honoured to be among such an amazing selection of films in competition. This award is a tribute to the protagonist of the film Lilo Ema Siope and her dedication in forging a healing pathway for her extraordinary family – a pathway deeply rooted in her culture, history and philosophy.

“Tahiti is hugely significant in voyaging kaupapa so to win an award there dignifies both our film and Ema’s legacy as a voyaging captain and waka builder.”

Producer Jim Marbrook said: “This is another vital stepping stone that helps us take our film out into the world and also deeper into the Pacific region. We set out to make a documentary that was both cinematic and intimate and the reactions to the screenings and this prize have vindicated our creative choices.

“It was a complex movie to produce because the material was so sensitive.”

Loimata had its television debut on Waitangi Day on Māori Television and is available to watch on their on demand website for the next two months.

Loimata, The Sweetest Tears takes the viewer on an emotional healing journey with extraordinary ocean-going waka captain, Lilo Ema Siope.

The film is an intimate exploration of a family shattered by shame working courageously to liberate themselves from the shackles of the past. A journey of courage, tears, laughter and above all, unconditional love.

Ema Siope
Ema Siope … the film is “an intimate exploration of a family … working courageously to liberate themselves from the shackles of the past.” – Image: Loimata, The Sweetest Tears
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