Red, White & Brass is one of those feel-good movies that leaves a smile on your face well after the credits have rolled.
While the story is predictable, after all it’s inspired by a “straight up” true story (as the credits explain), it’s also great fun and oozes energy.
Red, White & Brass tells of Maka (John-Paul Foliaki) – a diehard Tongan fan who is desperate to get tickets for the 2011 Rugby World Cup match between Tonga and France being played in Wellington.
Despite numerous fund-raisers Maka and fellow members of his church group have been unable to raise the money to buy tickets. He then discovers the tournament organisers are looking for a brass marching band ready and willing to perform at the pre-match entertainment to represent Tongan culture. As well as performing, all band members will get free tickets to the match.
The fact that Maka knows nothing about marching bands isn’t going to stop him from putting his hand up for the gig.
What follows are the efforts of Maka, his cousin Veni (Dimitrius Shuster- Koloamatangi) and other friends and relatives to learn how to play brass instruments and march in unison.
Gradually the band moves from practising using plastic bottles and tin cans, to proper musical instruments and finally to performing on the world stage.
There are plenty of bumps along the way, even after they get their musical instruments, including what type of music the band should play and how it should represent the Tongan culture. This becomes a major sticking point between Maka, his parents, others in the group and church elders.
Given the film is based on the family of Halaifonua Finau (Nua) who wrote the screenplay and was one of the producers, Red White & Brass also provides an insight into Tongan culture.
The casting of numerous Tongan community members in roles, including Nua’s parents Tevita Finau and Valeti Finau who play Maka’s parents, adds to the authentic feel of the movie. Shots of members of the band (who are still performing) at the end of the movie also add to its authenticity.
As Nua explains: “At the heart of this film is the Tongan concept of Māfana . It describes what being Tongan is, it describes the feeling of when you are in a Tongan environment – just warm, it’s home, it’s us. In the sense of the film and sport, it’s about leaving your brain at home and going with your heart.”
Foliaki’s Maka embodies this concept. Impractical, self-centred, energetic and slightly annoying, his belief in himself and his culture shines through. As is the case with much of the cast it’s hard to believe it is his first official acting role.
Shuster-Koloamatangi’s Veni, is also very believable as someone who is struggling to embrace their Tongan heritage.
While the great joy of Red, White & Brass is watching the formation and performance of the band, the importance of family, belonging and being true to yourself provides the movie’s heart.
Red White & Brass opens in cinemas on June 22.
- movies, reviews
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