Voyaging in Film: Sundance 2024 celebrates Tongan short film ‘Lea Tupu’anga’

Jan 22, 2024, 7:14 PM | Updated: Jan 23, 2024, 7:25 am

SALT LAKE CITY — This year, the Sundance Film Festival will showcase a short film highlighting Tongan culture.

It’s rare to have a Tongan film made by Tongans, and to have this film play out on a worldwide stage like Sundance is an opportunity to share their story in their language.

“Lea Tupu’anga” or “Mother Tongue” is the story of a speech therapist who feels disconnected from her Tongan culture. She lies about her ability to speak Tongan in order to get a job.

When the truth comes to light, she must figure out how to communicate to save a patient’s life.

Luciane Buchanan wrote and stars in the short film. She’s known for her starring role in the Netflix series, “The Night Agent.”

Charlie Prescott is the director of the Utah Pacific Island Film Series, which had a special screening of the film on Monday at an event called “Voyaging in Film” in Salt Lake City.


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“It is, it is going to be a timeless film that we’ll be able to look at, to help us make those steps if we want to get into acting or even just learn more about our culture,” Prescott said.

Prescott is a Samoan actor. He got the bug after visiting his dad at work on the set of the TV show, “Lost.”

“He was a security guard for them and would always take us to set and we would see the plane crash and all these amazing things,” Prescott said.

He knows the Pacific Islander numbers are few in this industry.

“So of course, we have the Rock and Taika Waititi, who we love so much for creating that vision for us, right?” he said.

So he’s trying to carve a path for creatives like him to grow and in time, reach a worldwide audience.

“It doesn’t matter what spectrum you’re at, as long as we’re learning. Until then, our stories in some type of way, I think that that’s powerful within itself,” Prescott said.

After the screening, there was a Q&A with actors and filmmakers.

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Voyaging in Film: Sundance 2024 celebrates Tongan short film ‘Lea Tupu’anga’