Short Pasifika film shows father-daughter acceptance

A film festival in Auckland this week explores the themes of identity, sexuality and culture through the lens of the Pasifika community.

One of the short films tells the story of a pastor's daughter trying to navigate the conflicts between her faith and her sexuality.

Like many Samoans, Amy Tielu has a strong connection to God.

"God is an all surrounding, encompassing force," says Ms Tielu.

"We really get to understand God in the connections we can forge with other people."

Another part of her identity is that she is pansexual, defined as a person who can be attracted to anyone, regardless of gender.

"Humans are all humans to me and I don't care. It's just what's in your mind and what's in your heart, that's what I connect to."

As a teenager, Ms Tielu struggled to come to terms with her sexuality.

"It was just getting too painful to keep hearing messages about the fact that you are a sin."

The Bible's condemnation of same-sex attraction felt at odds with what Ms Tielu knew about Christ's teachings.

"One of the things that we're always taught from the earliest stage is that Jesus loves you and he loves you unconditionally."

Having the support of her father - a pastor, who had God's ear - was a huge help.

"They thought any sexuality, other than the heterosexuality, was a choice, but we know now it is not [a] choice."

A former trade economist and genetics biologist, Reverend Apelu Tielu of the Papakura Presbyterian Pacific Island Church slowly came to accept his daughter's sexual identity.

"Who am I to tell them they cannot be who they are?"

The short film, called Portraits of Poly Pasters' Kids, is part of a series by The Coconet - an online hub for Pacific media.

Adrian Stevanon directed the feature about the Tielus.

"The gay, lesbian, you know, all that community, has always had conflicting issues with Christianity."

Stevanon says he was fascinated by how Tielu and her pastor father made it work.

"He's okay with it and I wanted to figure out, well, if he's okay with that, why can't we all be okay with that?"

The short film is among eight being shown at the Pollywood Pasifika Film Festival in Auckland this month.

The films will be screened at the Mangere Art Centre on November 4 and at the Auckland Art Gallery on November 18.

More information about Portraits of Poly Pasters' Kids can be found on the Eventfinda website.