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Experiencing Tonga -- Nick Adler interview

Video clip synopsis – Producer and director Nick Adler talks about living in Tonga during the making of Fit for a King.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 3min 49sec
Tags - civics and citizenship, culture, globalisation, historical representations, identity, oral history, Tonga, see all tags


Experiencing Tonga -- Nick Adler interview

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About the Video Clip


This interview with Nick Adler was recorded for the Pacific Stories website produced in 2005. Nick Adler has co-produced and directed several documentaries with partner Caroline Sherwood. They began their filmmaking in the UK and have made award-winning documentaries about aboriginal issues in Australia.

Pacific Stories is a co-production between Film Australia’s National Interest Program and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Presented by Vika and Linda Bull, the project explores the geography, history and culture of the South Pacific.

Curriculum Focus


Historic knowledge and understanding
Historic reasoning and interpretation

In Level 6 History, students have the opportunity to

  • Develop skills in analysing and evaluating a range of primary and secondary sources.
  • Develop skills in critical inquiry.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of historical events in a variety of forms such as oral presentations, narratives, multimedia presentations and film.
  • Consider how the past is a great narrative of people’s lives, events both trivial and major, ideas and ways of thinking.
  • Develop perspectives on our nation, our region and our world.
  • Enhance their historical skills by using a range of sources and the higher order thinking skills of reasoning and interpretation.
  • Actively engage with a number of key historical concepts.

Other Links to VELS
Physical, Personal and Social Learning
Interpersonal Development – working and learning in teams, values as social constructs, resolving conflicts
Personal learning – ethical considerations, manage own learning
Civics and Citizenship – Concepts of personal identity, knowing rights and responsibilities as a citizen, social justice. Appreciate Australia’s place in the Asia–Pacific region and the world.

Interdisciplinary Learning
Opportunities for enhancing

  • Communication skills
  • ICT skills
  • Higher order thinking skills
This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


In this video clip filmmaker Nick Adler talks about the experience of filming in a highly stratified society like Tonga. Nick Adler shot the documentary Fit for a King during the lavish 75th birthday and 25th anniversary celebrations of the reign of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV in 1994. Celebrations were held throughout the kingdom and people paid their respects to the King.

As a constitutional monarchy, Tonga has enjoyed stability and relative prosperity for many decades with its citizens having high rates of adult literacy and longevity. King Taufa’ahau Tupou was much revered by his subjects and under his rule people enjoyed stability and prosperity. Despite his popularity, there was questioning about the system of government, where power and privilege are inherited; a pro-democracy movement argued that as Tonga modernised and changed, so too should the form of government include more participation in decision-making by all of its citizens.

Modernisation and change has included Tongans migrating in large numbers seeking work and better wages and increased engagement in the globalise economy. With wider experience the social aspirations of many Tongans began to change. In 1998 the Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement (THRDM) was formed and called for democratic changes including the creation of an Upper House for nobles while making 21 seats in the Lower House directly elected by and open to commoners. No longer relegated to the margins of Tongan society, its influence is being felt at all levels of government, though reform has still been very gradual. In the 2005 elections, eight of the nine commoner seats in the Lower House were won by members of the new party.

King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV died on 10 September 2006. His 41-year reign made him one of the world’s longest-serving sovereigns. He was succeeded by his eldest son King George Tupou V.

In this interview recorded with Nick Adler in 2005 he speaks of the idiosyncratic qualities of a benevolent monarchy. He also reflects on the democracy movement and what this might mean for Tongan people.

Classroom Activities

  1. Using the video clip, describe the issues the filmmaker Nick Adler faced when he made the film about the King of Tonga’s celebrations. Why do you think there were these issues?
  2. What strategies did he use to try to ensure that he made a ‘good’ film?
  3. Is it a problem if the recorder of any historical event already has a bias before the recording takes place. You might also like to consider the situation when a TV broadcaster, who also happens to be a representative of a football club, broadcasts a football game in which his own club is playing. Are these situations similar? Can the recording of an historical event ever be free of bias of the person doing the recording?
  4. In class, practice interviewing another student about an issue. An example of an issue might be the TV recording of Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Think about:
  • the issues Nick Adler faced in Tonga
  • your chosen issue
  • preparing your questions
  • how you will record the responses
  • how you will edit the final report
  • who the audience might be.

Further Resources


Go to Pacific Stories Learning for Interactive Compass Map with facts about the Pacific region.

For interview transcripts, books and references for this Digital Resource go to Pacific Stories, choose Fit for a King, select INDEX, and go to MORE INFORMATION.