'Leitis in Waiting' film internationally recognised

A one hour film about transgender women in Tonga has won a number of international film awards and will premiere in New Zealand this weekend.

Titled 'Leitis in Waiting', it tells the story of Joey Joleen Mataele's life in Tonga over the course of a year.

The story highlights the battles many leiti's face everyday in the Kingdom such as the impact of Tonga's sodomy and cross-dressing laws.

Mataele said despite the film's accolades, life in Tonga's conservative and religious society isn't easy.

"Every time I sit down and watch the movie, it just brings back a lot of memories and a lot of the hardships that we went through and is quite hard to take it in, but at the same time it feels great to be able to open up about the life that you went through."

The film, directed by Dean Hammer, Joe Wilson and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, is dedicated to all members of the Tonga Leiti Association who had passed away.