New Zealand/Sāmoa 2020
In English and Samoan, with English subtitles


The redemptive tale of waka builder and captain Lilo Ema Siope’s final years, the stunning LOIMATA, The Sweetest Tears is a chronicle of journeys – journeys of migration, spirituality, voyaging, healing and coming home. Confronting intergenerational trauma head on, the Siope family returns to their homeland of Sāmoa. For Ema’s father, this is his first time back to his birthplace since leaving in 1959. The result is a poignant yet tender story of a family’s unconditional love for each other, and a commitment to becoming whole again.

Ema was born and raised in South Auckland as a child of Sāmoan migrants. She captained both the Haunui Waka Hourua and Aotearoa One, both of which belong to the great waka master Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr. Ema’s key role in the revival of voyaging saw her become an important mentor for future generations of voyagers.

Directed by Ema’s friend Anna Marbrook, the project developed alongside the pair’s friendship while spending time together on the waka. LOIMATA, The Sweetest Tears builds on Marbrook’s previous documentary works which highlight both the resurgence of voyaging and the silencing of its history by colonisation, while extending a raw and stirring tribute to an extraordinary truth seeker. — Lana Lopesi

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Last updated: 26 June 2020