Screened as part of NZIFF 2012

Tongan Ark 2012

Directed by Paul Janman

This lyrical documentary inducts us into the surprising world of Tongan Futa Helu and his Atenisi Institute. Probably the world’s smallest university, this unconventional institution proudly stands apart from church and state.

Aotearoa New Zealand In English and Tongan with English subtitles
69 minutes HDCAM

Director, Screenplay, Photography


Echo Zeanah-Janman


Paul Janman
Malcolm Clarke


Anna Rice


Futa Helu
Atolomake Helu
Sisi’uno Helu-Langi
Kik Velt
Michael Horowitz
Opeti Taliai

World Premiere

SkyCity Theatre, 4 August 2012


Paul Janman’s lyrical documentary inducts us into the surprising world of Futa Helu and his ‘Atenisi Institute, an unconventional Tongan institution that proudly stands apart from church and state. Polynesian and classical European cultures entwine in what is probably the world’s smallest and poorest university, built on the swampy outskirts of Nuku’alofa. It is a place that prides itself on freedom of expression and thought, but also a place of rigorous devotion to a very purist notion of education, based on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers whom its founder valued above all. The Institute has fallen on tough times of late; among the crumbling buildings students are sometimes outnumbered by the stray dogs and pigs that wander the campus. It has survived due to the fundraising efforts of the school’s performing arts troupe, who specialise in another of Futa’s great loves: classical Italian opera. As Futa’s health declines, the burden of preserving the school falls increasingly on his somewhat hesitant family and the school’s eccentric faculty. — MM