Director, Writer, Producer [Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Te Rangi]
A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita - Making Waves.
Swimming against the tide becomes an exhilarating experience. It makes you strong. I am completely without fear now. Merata Meta in an interview with Listener writer Helen Martin, 14 October 1989
Merata Mita argued forcefully that the voices of Māori and of women were sorely lacking on-screen. Best known for her Springbok tour documentary Patu!, the straight-talking director and actor later set up an indigenous filmmaking programme in Hawai'i, and spoke about indigenous film around the globe. After Mita passed away in 2010, her youngest son Hepi began making a film about her — discovering new sides to his mother as he trawled through footage, and interviewed his older siblings. The feature-length documentary debuted at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
In 1983, director Geoff Murphy stormed out of the scrub of the nascent Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great New Zealand colonial epic. Set during the New Zealand Wars, this tale of a Māori leader (Anzac Wallace) and his bloody path to redress 'imbalance' became the second local film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and the second biggest local hit to that date (after Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie). A producer-driven recut was later shown in the United States. This 2013 redux offers Utu “enhanced and restored”.
The opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television travels from an opening night puppet show in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ On Air, Sky and Māori Television). Many of the major players are interviewed. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within the story.
The birth of television in the 1960s meant that suddenly protests and civil unrest could be broadcast directly into Kiwi homes. This episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television looks at many of those events — involving everything from the Vietnam War and the Springbok tour, to Bastion Point and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. It also examines how being televised altered their impact. Interviews with both protestors and reporters provide a unique insight into what it was like to be living through extraordinary periods of New Zealand history.
This edition in Prime’s television history series surveys Māori programming. Director Tainui Stephens pairs societal change (urbanisation, protest, cultural resurgence) with an increasing Māori presence in front of and behind the camera. Interviews with broadcasters are intercut with Māori screen content. The episode charts an evolution from Māori as exotic extras, via pioneering documentaries, drama and current affairs, to being an intrinsic part of Aotearoa’s screen landscape, with te reo used on national news, and Māori telling their own stories on Māori Television.
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
This episode of the Māori Television series about Aotearoa artists follows Māori screen pioneer Merata Mita. Mita produced vital work anchored in culture and community. This extract concentrates on the occupation of Bastion Point. Mita and protest leader Joe Hawke talk of how 25 May 1978 shaped her concerns as a filmmaker: "It was life, it was a transformation". The documentary includes footage from Bastion Point: Day 507, Patu, Mita's feature Mauri and Utu, and sees her running a lab for indigenous filmmakers. The episode was the 17th screened in Kete Aronui's fifth season.
This episode of arts show Frontseat visits the inaugural edition of the Māori Film Festival in Wairoa, with Ramai Hayward and Merata Mita making star turns, alongside a tribute to teenage filmmaker Cameron Duncan. Elsewhere, Deborah Smith and Marti Friedlander korero about their She Said exhibition, and about photographing kids and staging reality; and Auckland’s St Matthew in the City showcases spiritual sculpture. A ‘where are they now’ piece catches up with Val Irwin, star of Ramai and Rudall Hayward's interracial romance To Love a Māori (1972).
Loosely based on the case of a real-life computer dealer who acquired international bank records and later died mysteriously on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Spooked marked Geoff Murphy’s first local movie in 15 years (after time directing in Hollywood). Everyman Kevin (Christopher Hobbs) is caught up in a barrage of intimidation after buying some used computer equipment and unwittingly receiving corporate secrets; Cliff Curtis plays the journalist investigating his case. There are also rare cameos by director Vincent Ward and Goodbye Pork Pie star Kelly Johnson.
Ralph Hotere (Te Aupōuri) is regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest artists. This documentary by Merata Mita provides a perspective on his world, largely by way of framing his extensive body of work. Hotere remains famously tight-lipped throughout, but there are interviews with artists, friends and commentators, alongside scenes of Hotere working and of his contemporary home context. Mita's impressionistic film is set to a Hirini Melbourne-directed score of jazz, māori and pop songs, and poetry reading by Hotere's first wife Cilla McQueen.
This documentary about Māori writer Witi Ihimaera features him in conversation with filmmaker Merata Mita. Ihimaera traverses his life and writing career, emphasising the importance of family (particularly his mother and grandmother) and his overriding Māori identity. Aileen O'Sullivan's film features a star-studded assemblage of local literature — Keri Hulme, Albert Wendt, publisher Geoff Walker — and a dramatised excerpt from his novel Bulibasha ( featuring Rena Owen, Michael Hurst and Rawiri Paratene), shot roughly two decades before 2016 movie adaptation Mahana.
When she made Mauri, Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to direct, write and produce a feature film. Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and a changing way of life in a dwindling East Coast town. As with Barry Barclay's Ngati, Mauri played a key role in the burgeoning Māori screen industry; the production team numbered 33 Māori and 20 Pākehā, including interns from Hawkes Bay wānanga. NZ art icon Ralph Hotere helmed the production design; Māori activist Eva Rickard played kuia Kara.
This episode of Koha is an examination of the Māori feature film industry, from the pioneers of the silent era up to feature film Mauri. Reflection on international screenings of groundbreaking feature Ngati frames interviews with Witarina Harris, Ramai Hayward, Barry Barclay, Wi Kuki Kaa and Merata Mita. Barclay talks of the importance of Māori telling Māori stories. “We’ve seen heaps of pictures of cowboys and Indians eh, but they’re always made by the cowboys.” Includes footage of The Devil’s Pit, Rewi's Last Stand, Ngati, The Governor, and Mauri.
This report for TVNZ’s flagship 1980s arts show was made to tie in with Nicholas Reid’s book about the renaissance in NZ cinema that began with Sleeping Dogs in 1977. Reid and a who’s who of filmmakers discuss many of more than 50 films made in the previous decade (with Bruno Lawrence ever present) — and ponder the uniqueness (or otherwise) of NZ film. The industry’s fondness for rural and small town settings, and forceful (often conflicted) male leads is explored; and more neglected areas — Māori film making and more of a voice for women — are traversed.
In this Koha story, reporter Temuera Morrison arrives on the East Coast to watch the making of Mauri, the first dramatic feature directed solo by a Māori woman. Writer/director Merata Mita argues that the 50s set drama is "about birth and death, and all that takes place between", and talks about how the film is important in giving Māori filmmaking experience, and a voice on screen. Actors Zac Wallace (Utu) and Eva Rickard are interviewed, while locals talk about the challenges of making movies. There are also glimpses of some of the Ralph Hotere-designed sets.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".
It's the 1870s, and Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace) is fed up by brutal land grabs. He leads a bloody rebellion against the colonial Government, provoking threatened frontiersmen, disgruntled natives, lusty wahine, bible-bashing priests, and kupapa alike to consider the nature of ‘utu’ (retribution). Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael raved about Geoff Murphy’s ambitious follow up to Goodbye Pork Pie: “[He] has an instinct for popular entertainment. He has a deracinated kind of hip lyricism. And they fuse quite miraculously in this epic ...”
This 1982 Lookout documentary charts Samoan novelist and poet Albert Wendt’s personal view of Samoans in Auckland. Set mainly in what was then predominantly Samoan Grey Lynn, Wendt looks at how New Zealand-born Samoans maintain the traditions of their homeland. He also examines the close ties between those in New Zealand and the wider ainga, or extended family, back home. The church’s role in the community is highlighted, along with sports. Wendt also addresses what he sees as the double edged sword of remittance: sending money back to islands.
With a stellar cast, including Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita and Billy T James (as a Marxist), The Protesters explores issues surrounding race and land ownership in NZ in the aftermath of the Springbok Tour and occupation of Bastion Point. A group of Māori and Pākehā protestors occupy ancestral land that the government is trying to sell. As they wait for the police to turn up they debate whether to go quietly or respond with violence. Though some wounds are healed, The Protesters ends on a note of division and uncertainly, gauging the contemporary climate.
For this documentary director Gaylene Preston goes behind the scenes during the making of Geoff Murphy's Utu — his ambitious 'puha western' set during the 1870s land wars. “It’s like football innit? You set up the event and cover it…” says Murphy, as he prepares to shoot a battle scene. In this excerpt, the film’s insistence on cultural respect is conveyed: Merata Mita discusses the beauty of ta moko as star Anzac Wallace is transformed into Te Wheke in the makeup chair, and Martyn Sanderson reflects on having his head remade to be blown off: “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”.
Reporter Neil Roberts ventures into South Auckland in this TVNZ documentary, and finds two rapidly growing but very different communities. Otara and Mangere are becoming New Zealand’s industrial powerhouse, but a huge influx of Māori and Pacific Island workers and their families are struggling to adapt in a brand new city that was farmland just decades earlier, and lacks amenities for its new citizens. Meanwhile, to the east, Howick and Pakuranga are also booming but their more upwardly mobile, prosperous and very Pākehā citizens seem to be living in a world of their own.
One of those Blighters began life as a doco on Taranaki novelist Ronald Hugh Morrieson, but after interviews with many who knew him, morphed into something more offbeat: a semi-fictionalised tale of Morrieson’s mates reminiscing about his departure, interwoven with highlights from his tales of drunkards and con artists. The dramatisations are from his four novels - all became movies - plus one posthumously published short story. Amidst a cast packed to the rafters with carousing Kiwi screen legends, fellow multi-talented muso Bruno Lawrence plays Morrieson.
This film documents the influential 1979 New Zealand tour of a black theatre group from London arts centre Keskidee. They visit marae, perform at The Gluepot, prisons and youth centres; meet gang members, Ratana ministers and a young Tame Iti; and korero about roots and fights for rights. The made-for-TV film was directed by Merata Mita and Martyn Sanderson. On the tour Sanderson met his future wife, Kenyan actor Wanjiku Kairie. Tour instigator Denis O’Reilly argued in 2009 that the doco is “full of insights at a time of huge social and cultural shifts in Aotearoa.”
Regular Māori programmes started on Television New Zealand in 1980 with Koha, a weekly, 30 minute programme broadcast in English. It explored everything from social problems, tribal history, natural history, about weaponry, to the preparation of food, canoe history, carvings and their meanings, language and how it changed through time. It was a window into te ao Māori for Pākekā, and provided a link to urban Māori estranged from their culture. It was the first regular Māori programme to be shown in prime time.