In his youth as a brave Samoan fighter, Maea went by the nickname 'the Lion.' Now he is a middle-aged baker living in suburban Wellington— and also an unlikely midwife, providing help to women whose pregnancies have made them vulnerable within their families or communities. One day Maea's own daughter arrives at his doorstep, herself pregnant and badly beaten. Haunted by his violent past, Maea must decide whether to seek revenge or negotiate a path of redemption.
Blending supernatural phenomenologies and a realist filmmaking approach, One Thousand Ropes is a finely-observed character portrait exploring the nuances of masculinity within New Zealand's marginalized Samoan community. Tusi Tamasese's second film premiered at Berlin, Stockholm, BFI London and Palm Springs. One Thousand Ropes was selected as the New Zealand entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.
"Childbirth becomes a powerful vessel for renewal in this deeply felt drama about a Samoan former fighter atoning for the violence that divided his family and exiled him to solitude… From Leon Narbey's composed camerawork with its minimal, graceful movement, to the pensive scoring of Tim Prebble, incorporating sounds of nature, this slow-moving film keeps its conflicts veiled, making the audience work to access the characters' inner lives. It combines melancholy domestic drama with spiritual and supernatural elements… a quiet power accumulates"
"[A]n intoxicating film which is beautifully told… The beautifully languid, observational photography lingers on small details, while most of the dialogue is spoken by a character out of shot, forcing us to focus on the silent reactions of those on-screen… Putting to bed expectations that Samoans only appear on screen for laughs or as gangsters… One Thousand Ropes heralds a bright young talent in New Zealand filmmaking and a refreshingly frank window into the lives of our neighbors"