Samoa hasn’t experienced a great amount of exposure in cinema since Return to Paradise. This, however, changed with last year’s release of Hobbs and Shaw, a spin-off movie from the famous Fast and Furious franchise. "And why is that" I hear you say? Well… this is largely down to the film’s star, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Born in the US, “The Rock” is half Samoan himself and the film director David Leitch seized this opportunity to weave his heritage into the film. Whilst Johnson was able to give the occasional nod to his roots in previous movies, such as the Polynesian influenced Disney’s 2016 box office hit Moana, Hobbs and Shaw truly is his (and Hollywoods') greatest display of Samoan culture on the big screen.
The plot follows Johnsons’ character (Hobbs) to be reunited with his Samoan family played by Polynesian actors - with many being Samoan themselves – and to ensure that Hobbs and Shaw captured the essence of Samoan culture, film director Leitch hired a team of “Samoan consultants” who remained on set throughout the blockbuster’s production. These were particularly helpful for the capture of the "Siva" dance scene, performed by Hobbs and his buddies just before the movie’s climatic finale. Traditional dance is an important part of Samoan identity as it tell a story of cultural values and the film director shot the scene with minimal takes to keep its content as authentic and undisrupted as possible.
The movie also features a few words of the beautiful Samoan language throughout the movie with a very frequent use of the nickname “uso”, meaning brother. Evidently, family is an important theme in the movie, aptly reflecting its importance in Samoan culture.
Fa’a Samoa - also known as the Samoan Way of Life - is at the very heart of the local’s daily lives on the islands, acting as an unwritten code of conduct that ensure the perennity of customs and the way in which individuals live and treat one another. In Samoa, family is everything and the strong bonds do not only include immediate relatives but also one’s “aiga” or extended family. This sense of belonging was evident on and off the screen with The Rock proudly boasting about the performance of his very own his cousin Joe Anoa’i - that WWE fans will recognised as “Roman Reigns” – who was also casted in the production as one of Hobbs’s brothers. All under the watchful eye of Johnson’s real-life Samoan mother who spent a fair amount of time on set whilst the cast and crew captured scenes of her very own homeland.
A spin-off movie from the Fast and Furious franchise, this is a film to be enjoyed for the humorous rivalry between its two main characters and the impressive, albeit slightly silly, action sequences - at one point we really do watch the Rock successfully take down an airborne helicopter with nothing but a chain and his muscles (?) Yet this film also provides international audiences with an exploration of Samoan culture on a scale we have not seen before and for that we give it 5 stars!