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LOIMATA – the final journey home

The Kiwi Film That Tracks The Final Voyage of One of Samoas Great Waka Builders Steers Its Course for International Shores

On September 25, the launch of a crowd funding initiative will see kiwi film maker Anna Marbrook begin the journey of taking her extraordinary film Loimata to the big screen. After two years of shooting the film is now in its final stages of completion.

Ema Siope is six feet tall, incredibly strong, gender fluid and is one of the few women in the world who can captain and build ocean going waka hourua – traditional twin-hulled sailing canoes. She has traversed oceans to revive a voyaging past obliterated and silenced by colonisation. Ema is sick. A year ago, she was told to get her affairs in order, but she has one very important thing to do. Before she dies, she wants to rekindle her family’s fractured connection to their homeland Samoa.

Loimata honours the last journey of the great waka maker, sailor, voyager and mentor - Ema Siope. Shot in Aotearoa and Samoa the film follows Ema’s travels to the places of her past. They visit New Zealand’s 1960’s rural heartland where Ema’s parents’ gave birth to her brother - the first Samoan born in Taihape. The film then follows the family to Savai’i where they confront the open wounds that scattered Ema and her siblings across Oceania. This is a story of memory and it’s a story of return. It’s a return to who they truly are - a family of great voyagers and waka builders with whakapapa/gafa held and nurtured by Ema. Loimata is a proudly Pacific story of transformation and healing.

Film maker Anna Marbrook met Ema Siope two years ago while working in Samoa. As the friendship developed Ema started to open up about her life and her remarkable history. It was a compelling tale that she shared over many months, which Marbrook decided needed to be told. Initially self-funded, Loimata received private investment which was then complemented by support from NZ on Air and Maori Television, who will broadcast the film following its festival cinematic release, at the end of 2020.

“At the beginning of 2018 I was making a large-scale event in Wellington for the International Festival of the Arts called Waka Odyssey. Ema was to be one of the people honoured at that event but she was very sick in hospital and could not attend. I found out later she almost died. Ema prolonged her life for another 18 months despite all medical prognoses. And as we filmed, a bigger story unfolded with her whole family stepping into it” says Marbrook.

Ema Siope was a traditional sailing master who had a Post-Graduate Diploma in Pyschotheraphy. In recent years Ema was the Captain of Haunui Waka Hourua and Aotearoa 1 both now belonging to Hoturoa Barclay- Kerr (one of the great waka masters in the Pacific). She sailed across Aotearoa on these waka and trained many of the kaumoana, influencing and mentoring a whole generation of voyagers. Ema worked on 5 of the 6 waka built for the Pacific voyage of 2011/12 from Aotearoa to San Francisco; Galapagos to the Solomon Islands. She trained all the crew in 2010 for this landmark odyssey and was part of the building process. Astonishing life’s work for a woman, in what is often a male domain. As a speaker of Te Reo, Samoan and English, Ema was highly respected in the Maori community and touched many lives of people in the Pacific and Aotearoa.

Anna Marbrook has a directing career spanning nearly 30 years and has directed extensively across the Pacific. Her work connects media with social change and activates communities in both process and presentation, giving voice to those often under-represented. Anna created and series directed the ten-part Waka Warriors and Co-directed the feature length documentary “Te Mana o te Moana, the Pacific Voyagers” winner of a silver world medal at the New York Film and TV awards. She created and series directed Real Pasifik Season 1 and 2 for TVNZ – both finalists in the New York Film and TV awards. In 2108, Anna created Waka Odyssey with Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr and Kasia Pol directing NZ Festival Opening drawing 20 000 in audience and 200 000 online views of live feed, winning the Best Arts or Cultural Event 2018 in New Zealand at the National Events Awards and was nominated for a Wellington City award.

Sadly, Ema Siope passed away a month ago at the age of 52 and was honoured by hundreds of people as they paid their respects to her over the three-day tangi at Umupuia Marae. Voyagers travelled from across the Pacific and friends gathered from around the world.

The film-making team are now introducing her incredible story with the film LOIMATA for the first time in public and launching their BOOSTED fund-raising drive to complete the edit of their feature length documentary.


Director: Anna Marbrook
Producer: Anna Marbrook and Jim Marbrook
Executive Producer: Dr. Tamasailau Sualii-Sauni & Dame Gaylene Preston
Associate Producers: Mike McCombie & Roger Lampen
Director of Photography: Jess Charlton
Editor: Malcolm Clarke
Cultural Advisors/Faufautua faa’Samoa: Dr Ai’iloilo Elise Puni, and Dr Leulua’i’alii Laumua Tunufa’i

Supported by NZ On Air, Maori Television and DocEdge
Film made possible by the generosity and support of the Siope aiga.


© Scoop Media

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