This evocative short film follows Northland kaumatua Tohe Ashby, as he uses mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) as a cure for kauri dieback disease. Ashby — alongside fellow spiritual practitioners Fred Tito, Hori Parata and Te Ariki Manihera Henderson — administers a traditional whale ointment to the trunks of ailing Kauri, referencing an ancient relationship that the tree enjoyed with its relative the whale. Made in te reo Māori with subtitles, the documentary marks the debut of Whangārei director Ngāriki Ngatae, who approached the making of the film carefully because of the spirituality of the rongoā (medicine).
Because we [the filmmakers] were present there, we are a part of it. We are not just observers; the way we conduct ourselves is a part of the outcome.– Director Ngāriki Ngatae explains the process of making Te Wao Nui, Stuff, 15 September 2020