Tongan Ark

Feature documentary -
Culture, power and the infinite.

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A SPECIAL EDITION DVD is now available including additional scenes that were deleted from the festival and broadcast screeners. SUBTITLES in English, TONGAN!, French, Spanish and Italian.

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“Tongan Ark is a film about tiny islands and big ideas. It takes us to ‘Atenisi, a poor but vibrant university in the Kingdom of Tonga, where the veteran philosopher and opera buff Futa Helu and his talented but eccentric staff teach Greek philosophy alongside Polynesian dance, and advocate both freedom of thought and a concern for tradition.

Helu founded his school to help reform Tongan society, and his work as a social critic has earned him the nickname the ‘Socrates of Tonga’. But when a riot erupts outside the school gates, the crises of contemporary Tonga become the crises of ‘Atenisi. State repression, poverty, and violence all threaten the future of Futa Helu’s school.

Tongan Ark is a film for the senses, as well as the mind. Director Paul Janman introduces Western audiences to the lush and troubled landscapes of the Kingdom of Tonga, and also to the richness of Tongan intellectual life.”
- Dr. Scott Hamilton, Reading the Maps

“Janman has created an absorbing portrait of a complicated figure who exemplifies the challenges of reconciling indigenous and European intellectual traditions.”
Peter Calder, The New Zealand Herald

“The cultural work at ‘Atenisi undermines simplistic notions of Western cultural primacy, just as Helu’s appeal to Greek antiquity complicates a linear approach to modernisation.”
- Giovanni Tiso, Overland Journal

Tongan Ark‘s world premiere received a standing ovation at Auckland’s Sky City Theatre in August 2012 as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival. The full house was treated to a post-film show by a huge group of performers from ‘Atenisi University and the historical fofo’anga (kava circle singers) that Futa Helu helped to found. The guest of honour was Hon. Salote Lupepau’u Tuita who graciously received a ceremonial cup of kava from the people.

Tongan Ark has now been shown at other festivals around New Zealand, Tahiti, Fijithe U.S.A, Mexico, Italy and Israel.

21 thoughts on “Tongan Ark”

  1. Hi,
    I was just wondering if there was any chance of this film being shown here in Sydney,Australia. Futa Helu is my husband great-uncle and it would be awesome to be able to see it.

    1. We’re hoping to show in a number of Australian festivals in 2013/14 soon. Watch Tongan Ark on facebook for details.

  2. I am a Tongan-American living in the U.S. and would love to see this film. Where can I see it while here in the states?

  3. Please could you tell me if a DVD of this film is available? I have not been able to see the film in the UK, though I would like very much to do so.

      1. I bought the DVD and have watched it repeatedly. It is a fascinating story, and well worth buying and sharing. Well done. Malié.

  4. I am Tongan-Portuguese-American but i didn’t grow up around my Tongan family. My mom left my father when i was very young. She didn’t tell us much about that side of my family. I reconnected with them after i turned 18yrs old. I now have two children of my own. I would love to see this movie. Is there any way i can get a copy of it? I have never been to Tonga and i do want to go. It is my dream to connect with that side of my heritage. Ofa

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