#Native Perspectives- #Film #Review: “The Last Saint” (2014)


Tagline: “Sometimes doing right means doing wrong.”

Special Notes: Debut feature film from the director.

Director/Writer: Rene Naufahu
Stars: Beulah Koale, Calvin Tuteao, Joseph Naufahu
Production Companies: Imaginex Studios, The Reservoir

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Release Date: August 28, 2014

Plot: “Minka is a teenage Polynesian boy living in the heart of the city. With his P-addicted mother well on the way to going completely off the rails, three people enter his life – each with a promise – each with the power to destroy.”


“Minka lives in a home where his mother obviously loves him, but who suffers from emotional and mental disorders due to domestic violence and intergenerational trauma. She has long attempted to self-medicate through substance abuse, triggering episodes where she terrorized and abused her son leaving him traumatized as well. Like many children in such homes, however, he is deeply devoted to her, serving as a keeper, a parent, his own childhood lost through having to take care of both her and himself, a lonely existence.

When his long absent father Joe returns offering him work, his mother having used all their funds on drugs, Minka accepts, not knowing what it really involves. Soon, the reality of the ‘requirements’ hits hard, leaving Minka between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’. While he might gain a sense of belonging through the gang and attempts at ‘normalizing the family, the ‘live skills’ Joe attempts to teach him and the casual, terrible violence and aggression often involved makes him question where will it all end. When tragedy occurs, Minka finds the answer for himself.

An emotional, intense “coming of age” drama that touches on minority on minority prejudice, and looks into the complexities and complications of life as a minority, in which even as a youth, some are more often required to make brutal adult choices when all they want is a life like anyone else. A movie about the substitutions one makes when basic life needs are absent: the freedom to have a childhood, a nurturing home and regard as a human being simply wanting to belong and be loved.” A solid 8 out of 10.

* * * *


Another drama about dysfunctional native or indigenous families, about compensations, about substitutions, about adaptations. There are things everyone, no matter their ethnicity look for or need in some form: a nuturing family life, meaning, belonging, a sense of place and work that satisfies and gives meaning. And all children need childhood in its time.

Historically in native families and groups, warriors were the teachers of the young males, of life skills, of necessities and the honing abilities, guiding them in a good way. An instinctual, necessary function along with testing and meeting challenges. In the contemporary world, for a variety of reasons, many indigenous are more often forced to move in different cultures and societies than their own where there are different requirements, expectations and what may be deemed weaker more dishonest ways of obtaining a living (through using others), especially for males, the warrior function is frustrated.

Frustration, injustices and disrespect, both real and perceived, systematic racism and oppression stoke the fires of a rage that more often lashes out at family and friends. The need to control their own destiny by whatever means, with a stong dose of fatalism, some do so using a medium arguably used to keep minorities subdued and otherwise distracted and “occupied”: the drug industry.

The film was very hard to watch at times because it brought up memories of growing up, of seeing people and places like this, so it is authentic in that, brilliantly acted by young Beulah Koale.