Tonga, the only un-colonized Polynesian Kingdom, is facing uncertain times. The traditional power of local chiefs and their responsibility to the people has been progressively weakened by globalisation and the modern state. Christian churches have become the most important institutions, mediating between the constitutional monarchy and a desire for more participative democracy.
Community fundraising events demonstrate people’s love and support for their churches. One man’s comedy has helped build 24 churches and buildings over 20 years. Tevita Koloamatangi, nicknamed Tinitini, was denied his birthright to be chief in his village of Pangaimotu on the island group of Vava’u. People here are famous for their emotional volatility, warm heartedness and generosity in the eyes of their cousins on the main island, Tongatapu. As a comedian, Tinitini has created a new influential role, using his participative comedy to address current social issues to audiences in Tonga, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
The documentary follows Tinitini on a journey around his island to meet other performers and discover the secret of their improvised parody and satire. Tinitini and his companions’ commentary and companionship offer an amusing and revelatory view of life in Vava’u. Their personal insights, motivation and courage over adversity are moving and inspiring. The comedians’ important role in Tongan society also suggests a democratic and egalitarian form of celebrity.
The film contains five original comedy sketches or skits, which deal with important dilemmas modern Tongans are facing. These include Tonga’s changing relationship with the outside world, the translation of Christian teaching, love and jealousy, marriage and wealth, the fear of ghosts, and the state of the Monarchy. This film will stimulate discussion and debate on the cultural specificity of comedy, and its role in socio-political criticism and community building.