Private Journeys / Public Signposts turns the camera on photographer Ans Westra. Dutch emigree Westra has captured iconic images of New Zealanders since the late 1950s, expressively observing Aotearoa societal changes, particularly Māori urban drift. This film explores her remarkable life and work, and includes commentary from family and friends, fellow photographers, and colleagues, as well as discussion of the Washday at the Pa controversy. Luit Bieringa, curator of Westra's retrospective photo exhibition, directed the film, his first.
Set in and around the fictional town of Kapua in 1948, Ngāti is the story of a Māori community. The film comprises three narrative threads: a boy, Ropata, is dying of leukaemia; the return of a young Australian doctor, Greg, and his discovery that he has Māori heritage; and the fight to keep the local freezing works open. Unique in tone and quietly powerful in its storytelling, Ngāti was Barry Barclay's first dramatic feature, and the first feature to be written and directed by Māori. Ngati screened in Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival
Pietra Brettkelly is an award-winning New Zealand filmmaker who travels the world to make her documentaries. The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, her Sundance-selected film about international adoption, won best director and documentary at the 2009 Qantas Film and TV Awards. Māori Boy Genius was invited to the Berlin, Sydney and NZ Film Festivals.
Eddie (Stacey Tukariri) is a 10-year-old skater who, like many a suburban dreamer, has his sights set on riding the steepest slope in town (the Bullock Track in a pre-gentrified Grey Lynn). Although his father isn't happy about it, Eddie's hero is his teen neighbour Duane: wheelchair bound after wiping out on ‘the hill’. Directed by Tainui Stephens — his first dramatic short — and written by Brett Ihaka, the young Māori odd couple story screened at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals. Future Mt Zion director Tearepa Kahi plays Duane, and the score is by hip hop legend DLT.
He Toki Huna sets out to provide an independent overview of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan (the longest overseas war in which NZ has played a role). The documentary follows writer Jon Stephenson conducting eyewitness interviews in Afghanistan, and poses tough questions about the involvement of Kiwi troops in a conflict that co-director Kay Ellmers calls an “ill-defined war against an unclear” enemy. Ellmers and Annie Goldson made the Moa Award-winning film for Māori Television. An extended cut played at the 2013 NZ International Film Festival.
Paul Wolffram's film melds sounds from noted musicians Richard Nunns and Horomona Horo, recorded in spectacular locations around New Zealand, to demonstrate that the sounds of the natural world are a form of music too. Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro - traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. Debuting at the 2014 Wellington Film Festival, Voices of the Land pays tribute to Nunn's role in their revival, while Wolffram's powerhouse creative team use image and sound to show ways "landscape and the voices of the land can be heard".
This short film draws on a key incident in the life of Te-Ao-kapurangi, a woman of mana for Te Arawa's people. In the late nineteenth century, Aotearoa was in the grip of a 'musket war'; firearms were having a devastating effect in tribal battles. Hongi, a Ngāpuhi chief, leads a well-armed assault on a rival Te Arawa tribe. Te-Ao-kapurangi (Stephanie Grace) challenges Hongi and uses her wits, not a gun, to save her people. Invited to prestigious French festival Clermont-Ferrand, the film marked a rare drama directing credit for the late Tama Poata, writer of landmark Māori film Ngāti.
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”.
Inspired by Witi Ihimaera's Bulibasha, Mahana saw director Lee Tamahori making his first film on local soil since a very different family tale: 1994's Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison stars as a 60s era farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have absolutely nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and son Simeon sets out to find out how the feud first started. The powerhouse Māori cast includes Nancy Brunning (who is included in the interview clips) and Jim Moriarty. Mahana debuted at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, before NZ release.
Long isolated, New Zealand contains a world of Alice Through the Looking Glass natural oddities: birds, insects and plants like nowhere else. Scientist Jared Diamond remarked "it is the nearest approach to life on another planet". Palaeontology (from Professor Michael Archer) and Māori myth (told by Hirini Melbourne) reveal these 'Ghosts of Gondwana'. Then cutting edge camera techniques (earning a Merit Award at 2002 International Wildlife Film Festival) delve into a night world of bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” wētā, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills.