This short film is a re-enactment of events leading to Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha’s ‘Ka Mate’ haka; he composed the chant after evading enemy capture by hiding in a kumara pit. (The haka would become famous after the All Blacks adopted it as a pre-game challenge.) Directed by pioneering filmmaker Barry Barclay in te reo, produced by John O’Shea and written by Tama Poata, the short was made in the lead-up to landmark Māori feature Ngati. Many of the crew were enlisted via a work scheme, aimed at redressing the lack of young Māori working in the screen industry.
In two rain sodden weeks in November, the ‘graduates’ plunged into the production of a Māori language short drama, Ka Mate! Ka Mate! made by Barry [Barclay] from Tama [Poata]'s script and funded by the New Zealand Film Commission through Pacific Films. In December, half of these wananga had survived these initiation ceremonies.– Producer John O'Shea on Te Awa Marama, the collective who worked on Ka Mate! Ka Mate! and Ngati, in his book Don't Let it Get You, page 186