A New Zealand film has been submitted as a contender for best foreign language film at the Academy Awards for the very first time.

The Orator (O le Tulafale) is written and directed by Wellington man Tusi Tamasese, and will be put forward in the best foreign language film category at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Filmed entirely in Samoan, the movie was funded by the New Zealand Film Commission and was chosen by a special selection committee that included award-winning director Sir Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and actress Keisha Castle-Hughes.

A shortlist will be released just before the awards date - February 28, 2012 - before public votes will decide whether it is put up fornomination.


Film commission chief executive Graeme Mason said the fact that it was the first time a film from New Zealand had been put up for this category was an achievement in itself.

"It's fantastic for the film and fantastic for New Zealand also, as it keeps the world looking at us in terms of what we put out on film."

Set in Samoa, the story follows a man named Saili - meaning "in search of" - who is a little person. He is forced to overcome his fears, in a society that literally looks down at him, in order to defend his land and family.

A Kiwi film crew travelled to the islands and called on locals with no acting experience to be part of the cast, which also includes a number of Kiwi actors such as Tausili Pushparaj, who plays wife Vaaiga.

The film has already had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and premiered in New Zealand and Samoa at the weekend.