May screenings of Leitis in Waiting in Wellington and Auckland will feature conversations with
film stars, producers and directors, and launch a human rights-focused impact campaign.

May 2, 2018: Doc Edge, Australasia’s premiere international documentary festival, has announced that its 2018 edition will include four screenings of Leitis in Waiting – May 19 & 20 at Roxy Cinema in Wellington, and May 26 & 27 at Q Theatre in Auckland.

Leitis in Waiting is a feature documentary about Joey Mataele and the Tonga leitis, an intrepid group of gender and sexual minorities fighting a rising tide of intolerance in the South Pacific Kingdom.

The film follows Joey, a transgender woman of noble descent, as she organizes an exuberant beauty pageant presided over by a princess, shelters a young contestant rejected by her family, and spars with American-financed evangelicals threatening to resurrect colonial-era laws that criminalize the leitis’ lives. With unexpected humor and extraordinary access to the Kingdom’s royals and religious leaders, Joey’s emotional journey reveals what it means to be different in a society ruled by tradition, and what it takes to be accepted without forsaking who you are.

The Wellington screenings will be followed by Q&A with Joey Mataele, and additional film characters Lady Eva and Lord Fusitu’a. In Auckland, the post-screening conversations will feature the film characters as well as co-producer Sisi’uno Helu and directors Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson, alongside special cultural performances.

These New Zealand events will also serve as the launch of the film’s impact campaign in the Pacific, spearheaded by the Tonga Leitis Association, Pacific Sexual & Gender Diversity Network, and Asia Pacific Transgender Network to use community screening and dialogue events to support local human dignity work, promote human rights, and challenge colonial-era laws still on-the-books in eight Pacific countries that stigmatize, threaten, and criminalize LGBT lives.

“I believe this movie will allow us to foster conversations that will change hearts and minds toward love, acceptance, and equality,” said Mataele, who is a founding member of the TLA, a leading human rights organization in the Kingdom. “We’re Tongans and Pacific Islanders. We have a right to express what we are experiencing in our home countries. And we will not just continue to be doormats all of the time.”

Produced in association with Honolulu-based Pacific Islanders in Communications, Leitis in Waiting won the Special Jury Prize at FIFO, the International Oceanien Film Festival in Tahiti, and the Audience Award in the Festival of Commonwealth Film in London, where Joey was also honored with a Commonwealth Points of Light Award, bestowed by Queen Elizabeth to recognize outstanding volunteers creating innovative approaches to social challenges affecting the global community.

Joe Wilson, Film Director, tel: +1 808-629-9864 email:

Joey Mataele, Film Protagonist, tel: +676 887 6686 email:

Check out the trailer below