This film is held by the BFI (ID: 765454).


Introduction to Samoa featuring footage of Tutuila, Pagopago and Apia, including the work of the Apia Samoan Church. Lava fields at Savai'i. Kava ceremony in Samoan London Missionary Society pastor's house on Savai'i. Also features footage of Vailima, former home of the author Robert Louis Stevenson.



The London Missionary Society’s presence in Samoa dates from the first Pacific explorations of the celebrated John Williams, who had first visited the three Samoan islands (Tutuila, Savai’i and Upolu) in 1830. The LMS had established missions by 1836 and in the biased opinion of Goodall, the LMS’s chief modern chronicler, ‘from this point onwards the history of Samoa became the story of a people’s development from barbarism to civilisation, chiefly through the impact of Christian missions’ (Goodall, 1954, 352). Garrett’s more recent account (Garrett, 1994, 180-6) makes the LMS position more equivocal, indicating that the LMS maintained influence before World War One through judicious co-option of the traditional mataipower structures, and more particularly through the tulafale, the oratorical chiefs who spoke on behalf of the nobility and held various kinds of ‘active, executive power’ (Shore, 1982, 59). However intact the old power structures remained, the Christianity of almost all Samoa was not in any dispute: Samoans had zealously (if idiosyncratically) adopted Christian teaching during the nineteenth century, and Samoan pastors swiftly became the LMS’s most effective evangelists in the Pacific region.


Williams had been one of the first Europeans to set foot on the islands. As elsewhere in the South Pacific, the nineteenth century saw growing European settlement in Samoa (mostly in the form of traders), and a concomitantly greater involvement in Samoan affairs was taken by America and by the European powers. Samoan society itself was convulsed by wars during the mid-nineteenth century, and these disputes were utilised by foreign powers and land-grabbing settlers to manoeuvre the various Samoan groups toward accepting their claims. The Germans were the eventual victors in this game of strategy, and between 1900 and 1914 Samoa was under German colonial control. In Western Samoa, this state of affairs drew to a close in August 1914, when troops from New Zealand occupied the islands without encountering any German resistance; the control they established was formalised in 1920 by a League of Nations Mandate over Upola and Savai’i (Meleisea, 1987a, 21-42, 102-3); Tutuila and the smaller eastern islands had been under US administration since 1899.

The mid-1920s saw the beginnings of the ‘Mau’, a largely peaceful popular uprising against the New Zealand administration, whose ostensibly benevolent rule had deprived Samoan communities of a variety of important traditional and local powers. This movement would run on into the 1930s, until new legislation in 1936 made concessions to the Mau, and opened the door for a greater amount of Samoan participation in governance (Meleisea 1987b, 132-40; see also Field 1991).

Conrad George Stallan, the photographer of Here and There in Samoa, had been appointed as an LMS missionary to the Pacific in 1931. His first station was at Tutuila in American Samoa, and he moved between the Samoan islands throughout the thirties before he retired from missionary service in 1939 (LMS Annual Report 1938-9, 110; LMS Annual Report 1939-40, 67). Stallan made at least one other LMS film (Everyday Life in Samoa: Sinnet Making), and may well be responsible for the uncredited Pacific Schooner. This latter film, unlike Here and There, has a rough date attached to it, as the December 1938 issue of The Chronicle mentions that it has been added to the newly established Film Library (hire fee: 2s 6d. Chronicle 1938a, 268). It is thus probable that Here and There was produced slightly earlier, and it is likely to have been one of the 18 ‘short interest films of India, Samoa, Madagascar and Papua’ that were held by the LMS Film Library when it opened in September 1938 (Chronicle 1938b, 213). 



As with many 1930s LMS films, Here and There in Samoa lacks the didactic aspect which is common in post-war LMS productions, and is devoted instead to a rather touristic introduction to Samoa. The work of the church does not figure prominently, and Samoan practices (in this case, a kava ceremony) are simply presented to the viewer without any judgement being passed on them, and more or less without comment. The success of the LMS in evangelising Samoa over the preceding hundred years may of course have something to do with this relatively neutral presentation, but Here and There in Samoa shares with other 1930s LMS films a tendency toward providing its audience with uninterpreted spectacle rather than the harsher and more judgemental moralising about native life which is characteristic of many 1950s LMS films (e.g Health for Africa, or Papua Patchwork).


In keeping with a presentation of Samoa as a spectacular rather than moral field, the film is often very slow, and there are a large number of long panning shots and panoramic views (these sequences may also have allowed time for narration during screenings).

The first scenes take place in Pagopago Harbour, American Samoa. There is a visit to a native market, and a quick viewing of the town’s major buildings, but before long the camera is in a car bound for the villages. The next stop on this guided tour is a trek across the lava fields of north Savai’i – a different island, but the journey between two wholly different administrative spheres is completely elided by the car journey. This sequence affords some remarkable images, as we watch a group of Samoans cross the lava to visit the LMS pastor in a village on the far side. The intertitles provide information, rather than comment (‘the lava varies from ten to thirty feet’), and the scene of the kava ceremony that follows is, like the trek, devoid of Europeans. We then move on to the port of Apia in Upolu, which is displayed in similar style. After some further perambulations and the introduction of a Samoan pastor, the film ends with some shots of the grave of R.L. Stevenson and a quotation from him extolling the work of missionaries in the field. This is as close as the film comes to overt church propaganda.

There is little incident here, and perhaps the most interesting moment comes during the kava ceremony in the pastor’s house. Without a European in sight, this sequence contains within it both the missionary fantasy of a wholly Christian world and the classic image of Samoan traditional life, the kava ceremony itself. The nexus between these things is signalled as a drinker, in near silhouette against the light from outside, raises his cup in apparent salutation to the missionary with the camera.

Francis Gooding (November 2009)


Works Cited

‘A New Film Service’ The Chronicle: A Magazine of World Enterprise September 1938 (London: London Missionary Society): 213


Field, Michael J. [1984] Mau: Samoa’s Struggle for Freedom (Auckland: Polynesian Press,1991).

Garrett, John ‘Ways Across The Ocean’ 1994 in Thorogood ed. 1994: 174-96.

Goodall, Norman 1954 A History of the London Missionary Society 1895-1945 (London: Oxford).

Meleisea, Malama 1987a The Making of Modern Samoa: Traditional Authority and Colonial Administration in eth Modern History of Western Samoa (Suva: University of the South Pacific).

Meleisea, Malama 1987b Lagaga: A Short History of Western Samoa (Suva: University of the South Pacific).

Shore, Bradd  Sala ’Ilua: A Samoan Mystery (New York: Columbia, 1982).

London Missionary Society Annual Report 1938-39 (London: London Missionary Society).

London Missionary Society Annual Report 1939-40 (London: London Missionary Society).

‘The Four Quarters’ (editorial) in The Chronicle: A Magazine of World Enterprise December 1938 (London: London Missionary Society): 268.

Thorogood, Bernard ed. Gales of Change: Responding to a Shifting Missionary Context. (Geneva: World Council of Churches,1994)




Technical Data

Running Time:
16 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film

Production Credits

London Missionary Society
Production Company
London Missionary Society





Production Organisations