Leitis in Waiting Premieres in Tonga - Matangi Tonga

Matangi Tonga - August 21, 2018:

Leitis in Waiting, a one-hour documentary depicting the lives and challenges of leitis in Tonga, a transgender minority group fighting for equality, was premiered at a special screening at the Nuku'alofa Film Festival on August 21.

Her Royal Highness Princess Pilolevu hosted the pre-screening reception at the Tanoa Hotel and was presented with a copy of the documentary by the directors.

The documentary film tells the stories of Joey Mataele and other leitis in Tonga, reflecting on their lives, their views, the challenges they face and their religious opponents. It was produced and directed by Dean Hammer and Joe Wilson, with producer and story creator, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a native Hawaiian teacher, and co-producer Sisiuno Helu of Tonga.

Joey said during  a question session after the screening that they had always wanted to record or document the stories of the leitis.

“We’ve always heard about violence against women, but there’s a lot of untold stories from families that haven’t been revealed because of the taboo and our culture that really stops us."

"We need to talk about the issues that have been dumped all the time.

"I left school when I was 14, my grandmother said you know what, maybe you can use your music talent as something you can advocate with, as I don’t see yourself making a life without music. My grandmother always said forgiving is better than sacrifice, so music became the actual bullet or a tool for me to fight the devil away and the devil in you”.

The documentary first premiered at the Festival of Commonwealth Film at the British Museum in London on 14-15 April.

Joey received a Commonwealth Points of Light Award, an honour given by the British Government and endorsed by the Queen of England.

"I received the award from Her Majesty herself, and that is for the work that I do for human rights and enlightening the lives of LGBT people here in the Pacific through music and entertainment," said Joey.

At the same time, Dean said what’s most important to them is that all of the participants allowed them to record their lives and show it.

"It then creates opportunities like this, when people can come together across diversity of opinions and perceptions to share a vision for a society, where we can work together."

The documentary had also won the Special Jury Prize at the Festival International Du Film Docmentaire Oceanien (FIFO), Tahiti in February this year.

It was also one of six out of 124 submissions that won the 2017 Frameline Completion Fund Award with a prize of US$5,000 for each winner earlier this year.

The screening was organized by the Nuku’alofa Film Festival and the Tonga Leitis Association. Guests attending included the founder of the Tonga Leitis Association, Papiloa Foliaki.

1Dean Hamer