Ofeina’o Lesieli is coming to Hollywood
February 18, 2020
Ofeina’o Lesieli has been selected to screen at the Hollywood International Diversity Film Festival in Los Angeles on Saturday 22nd of February. Set in the capital city of Nuku’alofa in the Kingdom of Tonga, ‘Ofeina’o Lesieli tells the story of Lesieli Mafi, a young Tongan woman who has Down syndrome studying at the Mango Tree Respite Centre who discovered table tennis through the ITTF-Oceania Smash Down Barriers and how table tennis has transformed her life. Directed by Shannon Robinson of SRP Films, the documentary premiered at Nuku’alofa Film Festival in September 2019 and captivated audiences with Lesieli’s empowering and moving story.
Since the premiere in Tonga, the film has received monumental success both in Oceania and internationally, playing at the Sanctuary International Film Festival in Australia where it won Best Foreign Language Film. It later went on to win Best Documentary Short Film and Best Cinematography of a Documentary Film at the Los Angeles Cinematography Awards. Director Shannon Robin is absolutely elated at the success of Ofeina’o Lesieli.
“It was a real pleasure for SRP Films and myself to work with ITTF-Oceania in bringing this film to life. So far the response to ‘Ofeina’o Lesieli has been very positive at film festivals. Lesieli and her family are such lovely people, and I know they will be very excited for the Hollywood premiere. This film carries such a powerful message for all people living with a disability. Better yet, since the completion of the film, Lesieli went on to compete in Table Tennis at the international level. This accomplishment of Lesieli’s is something we are all very proud of, and it has reinforced this message even further.
Over a year after making this film, Lesieli’s love and commitment to table tennis has flourished even more. In November 2019, Lesieli competed in her first international tournament, representing her country in Auckland at the New Zealand Para Championships.
Smash Down Barriers is an inclusive grassroots table tennis program run by ITTF-Oceania with the support of the Australian Government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP). It aims to create opportunities and increase the quality of life for people with a disability through active participation in table tennis, and also works to change community perceptions of disability. This program has been instrumental in building the ranks of para table tennis all over the Pacific. An estimated 85 per cent of players in the region discovered the sport through the program, and many have gone on to represent their country. ITTF-Oceania and Tonga Table Tennis Federation (TTTF) are working hand in hand to deliver the Smash Down Barriers program to even more Tongans with TTTF currently running weekly program at 5 different disability centres.