U.S.-Tongan Filmmaker Wins Emmy Award For Football Documentary

 Vainuku explores pressures put on young Islanders trying to play pro football

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 11, 2017) – A US-Tongan filmmaker and director, Tony Vainuku, won an Emmy award for “Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary” at the 38th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards held in New York City on Thursday, 5 October.

Vainuku’s documentary called “In Football We Trust” reveals the social and family pressures endured by ambitious young Pacific Islander men as they chase their dreams to become professional football players. The film was directed by Vainuku with his producer Erika Cohn, and was released in 2015.

In his acceptance speech, a stunned Tony Vainuku stated “This is a huge, huge honour…we did this with seven years of sacrifice”

Vainuku was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Tongan immigrant parents. In an interview with America’s Public Broadcasting Service, Vainuku said that he was inspired by his late uncle Joe Katoa to produce the documentary.

Vainuku said that his uncle Joe was a top college football player and NFL prospect but was unprepared for a life outside football, having failed to progress professionally from college.

“Joe’s football successes gave our family something to be proud of, and more importantly, hope”, said Vainuku.

“Having dedicated 12 years to football, opportunity beyond the sport seemed nearly impossible. Joe’s parents had never expected him to hold a job and his coaches ignored his academic challenges, as long as he stayed eligible. Joe spent the next ten years of his life in prison, becoming another tragic story for our family.”

Tony Vainuku told the Business Wire, “The young men we follow in the movie are dealing with some tremendous pressures as they juggle family, cultural, athletics and religious issues.”

“This story is one that is relatable to many youth and communities throughout the nation, and we are committed to securing the funding needed to share this film with those audiences that will benefit the most by seeing it."

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2017 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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