Ninety-year-old film of Samoa brought back to life

Victoria University of Wellington’s Stout Research Centre and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision have come together to host the New Zealand premiere public screening of the restored 1926 film Moana: A Romance of the Golden Age.

Moana: A Romance of the Golden


The feature-length film will premiere on 1 September in Wellington and will be followed by a free, day-long public symposium to discuss the film with Pasifika filmmakers, writers, artists and academics, and a second public screening.

Moana was filmed by the husband and wife team Robert and Frances Flaherty over 1923 and 1924 in a village on the island of Savai’i.

At the film’s centre is Moana, son of a tribal chief, who journeys towards manhood as he spends a week being tattooed. The film captures the villagers as they fish, hunt, make clothes, feast and dance, providing a rare glimpse of traditional Samoan life.

In 1975, the filmmakers’ daughter, Monica Flaherty, returned to Savai’i to record a soundtrack for the silent film, and in 2014 Moana was restored and digitally remastered by independent film archivist Bruce Posner.

Stout Research Centre director Professor Lydia Wevers says the Centre is delighted to partner with the New Zealand audiovisual archive, Ngā Taonga.

Moana is a remarkable record of Samoan life in the 1920s and it was described at the time as a ‘living panorama’.

“It will be fascinating to see what filmmakers, scholars and students make of it now.”

Victoria University’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Associate Professor Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, whose maternal grandmother was born in the village, says it’s incredibly special to see traditional Samoan life, untouched and unedited, on the big screen.

“The film really captures the spirit of Samoa. The landscape is so lush and you see the beauty, mutual respect and generosity of the people. Moana is a reminder for Samoan people of who we are and where we come from.”

What: Moana: A Romance of the Golden Age
When: 6pm, 1 September and 4.30pm, 3 September
Where: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, 84 Taranaki St, Wellington
Tickets: Premiere $12 general admission, $10 students (incl complimentary drink) from Eventfinda
Second screening, $10 general admission, $8 students from Eventfinda

What: Moana symposium
When: 9am-5pm, 2 September
Where: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, 84 Taranaki St, Wellington
Cost: Free, register online to reserve your space
Guest speakers: include Sima Urale, Victor Rodger, Sean Mallon, Teresia Teaiwa, Karlo Mila and Tusi Tamasese.