Pic is directed by Tusi Tamasese

SYDNEY — Tyro helmer-scribe Tusi Tamasese’s Samoan-lingo “The Orator” (O le tulafale) has become New Zealand’s first foreign-language Oscar entry.

Backed by the New Zealand Film Commission and the Samoan government, the Blueskin Films pic bowed at the Venice Film Festival last month where it received a special mention. NZFC topper Graeme Mason said he hopes it is the first of many entries for the under-represented Pacific region.

Pic tells the story of a Samoan dwarf named Saili who must fight for his land and his pride. It’s filmed on and around the islands of Upolu in Samoa.

“It’s fantastic lyrical exploration of bravery and love,” said Mason who also chaired the selection committee. “But on top of that it is also an extraordinary portrait of a place and a way of life and I think that is something which resonates with the foreign-language voters.”

Transmission Films released “The Orator,” which was produced by Catherine Fitzgerald.

The 84th Academy Awards will be held Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

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