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.
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.
Ash Turner is a production designer and art director with over 20 year's experience contributing to award-winning features and television dramas, plus short films, commercials and live events. His work includes design for the films Snakeskin, A Song of Good, and Planet Man, as well as award-winning TV drama Ngā Tohu: Signatures.
Temuera Morrison was acting on screen at age 11. Two decades later he won Kiwi TV immortality as Dr Ropata in Shortland Street, and rave global reviews as abusive husband Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors. Since reprising his Warriors role in a well-regarded sequel, Morrison has starred in Crooked Earth, Tracker and Mahana, hosted a talk show and a variety show, and played Jango Fett in two Star Wars prequels.
Nancy Brunning was on the staff of Shortland Street for the first episode in 1992. In 1999 she stole the screen as a young gang girl in Once Were Warriors sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? She won a second NZ screen award for drama Ngā Tohu: Signatures, and played the family matriarch in 2016 film Mahana. Brunning died in November 2019, shortly before winning Aotearoa's top playwriting award.
Robin Scholes is one of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected producers. Her credits range from feature films (Once Were Warriors, Mahana, Mr Pip) to iconic TV shows (Magic Kiwis) and documentaries (Colin McCahon: I Am). In 1997 she was made an OBE for services to the film and television industry.
Jonno Woodford-Robinson has edited everything from features (Taika Waititi's debut Eagle vs Shark) to commercials (such as Telecom's Meerkats campaign). Woodford-Robinson's other features include Alison Maclean's The Rehearsal, Mahana and pioneering Fijian film The Land Has Eyes. A frequent collaborator with director Jason Stutter, Woodford-Robinson's projects include Stutter's adaptation of novel Predicament. After several nominations, he picked up his first New Zealand Film Award in 2017 for his work as co-editor (with Mike Horton) of Lee Tamahori's rural drama Mahana.
Lee Tamahori worked his way up the filmmaking ranks, before debuting as a feature director with 1994's Once Were Warriors. The portrait of a violent marriage became the most successful film in Kiwi history, and won international acclaim. Between Warriors and 2016's Mahana, Tamahori has worked mainly overseas, where he has directed everything from The Sopranos to 007 blockbuster Die Another Day.
With his 1973 book Tangi, Witi Ihimaera became the first Māori to publish both a novel and a book of short stories. Later his book The Whale Rider inspired a feature film which won international acclaim, and became one of the highest grossing 'foreign' titles released internationally in 2003. Ihimaera's work has also seen a number of television adaptations, including landmark big city tale Big Brother, Little Sister.