Private Project

Slow But Sure: The Story of the Tuaikaepau

In 1962, seventeen men tried to sail from Tonga to New Zealand on a 51 foot sailboat named Tuaikaepau. A fateful storm blew them off course and into the Minerva Reef where they were shipwrecked and marooned in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. An epic account of their fight for survival that lasted 101 days.

  • James Taumoepeau
  • Mafimolasike Lio Pupunu
  • Sipa Fine Sekona
    Key Cast
  • Vai Sikahema
    Key Cast
    In Football We Trust
  • Sepiuta Davis
    Key Cast
  • David Thomas
    Key Cast
  • Peter John Foster
    Key Cast
  • Lochlein Sekona
    Key Cast
  • Paige Smathers
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes 23 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 12, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    100,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    New Zealand, United States
  • Language:
    English, Tonga (Tonga Islands)
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - James Taumoepeau

James (Semisi) Taumoepeau was born on December 1, 1976 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He grew up playing sports (mainly American football) his adolescent years which ultimately provided opportunity for his higher education to be paid for. As he progressed, his athletics led him to the University of Utah but like many other students, he lacked the direction of what he wanted to concentrate his studies on. Trying to fill electives, he enrolled in a class for broadcasting. The class required projects of shooting and editing that finally helped him realize what he seemed destined to do. He is a lover of the arts and became most passionate about editing, directing and cinematography. James went on to earn a BA degree in Film and Media Arts and owns a production company Fisheye, LLC.

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Director Statement

The challenge was to modernize an old historical event through digital art and film but still stay true to the strong traditions of the Tongan culture. Even the old traditional hymns are performed by Tongan artists in today’s industry. The idea was to tell the story through a few of the descendants of the men involved as family orientation is a monumental aspect of the culture as well. With limited content, another challenge was to gather enough materials and b roll to break up the talking head as much as possible. The story in and of itself is compelling but can be exaggerated in some ways so narration was almost inevitable to ensure the integrity of the story. Pictures and excerpts from The Minerva Reef by Olaf Ruhen, as well as other sources were given three dimensional overhauls adding dynamics to the film. The story is extremely under-told and is unknown even to many Tongans, so the film also aims at cultural preservation.

It would make for a great motion picture adaptation.