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Co-director of Manti Te'o documentary shares how it came together

Manti Te'o teo notre dame ncaa
Winslow Townson/AP
FR170221 AP
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o waits for the snap during the second half of Notre Dame's 21-6 win over Boston College in an NCAA college football game in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

The new Netflix documentary “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” takes another look at the 2013 catfishing scandal that altered the life of Lā’ie native and former professional football player Manti Te'o.

Te'o appears in the two-part film and revisits the events of the time. It also brings to light the story of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who masqueraded as Te'o's online girlfriend and now lives as a transgender woman named Naya.

The documentary is co-directed by Tony Vainuku, a filmmaker of Tongan descent who grew up in Utah. His first film, "In Football We Trust," takes a look at the rise of Pacific Islander players in the NFL. The Conversation spoke to Vainuku about his films as he was waiting at an airport for a flight.

Vainuku says he's currently working on a mini-series based on the life of Hall of Fame football player and fellow Polynesian Junior Seau.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 7, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at
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