Gif: Tina Tiller
Gif: Tina Tiller

ĀteaJune 3, 2022

The Māori movies to watch on the big screen this Matariki

Gif: Tina Tiller
Gif: Tina Tiller

Wairoa Māori Film Festival curator Leo Koziol (Ngāti Rākaipaaka, Ngāti Kahungunu) shares a few favourites, all screening in cinemas this June and July.

For the past 17 years, the Wairoa Māori Film Festival has championed Māori cinema in the pre-dawn of Matariki at Queen’s Birthday weekend. We picked a long weekend for people to travel the long distance to the East Coast, and we picked Matariki because it has traditionally been a time of remembrance and storytelling. In ancient times, we gathered around the fireplace and shared oral histories, moteatea and waiata. In modern time, we gather in a cinema, a marae or around our giant screen television.

I hoped back then that one day there would be a Matariki long weekend, and – amazingly – now in 2022 that day is upon is. Matariki doesn’t match our Roman calendar months, but if you look at the packed calendar of June and July you find a wealth of Māori movies, and a diversity of Matariki-time events that you can see them at. From Ōtaki to Wairoa, Tāmaki Makaurau to Whanganui-a-Tara, here are seven great Māori movies to check out on the big screen this Matariki.

Rohe Kōreporepo

Kathleen Gallagher (Ngāi Tahu) grew up playing in the last stronghold of a once-mighty swamp. Now known as Riccarton Bush, Christchurch’s Pūtaringamotu is a remnant of an ancient kahikatea wetland. This wetland and others she explores in Rohe Kōreporepo, a poignant profile of the champions and saviours of our endangered and precious wetlands.

Screening: Wairoa Māori Film Festival June 5; Matariki Pictures, Mangere Arts Centre, June 25-26.

The Lion King Reo Māori

Chelsea Winstanley and Tweedie Waititi have reversioned the animated Disney classic The Lion King into te reo Māori, following up on the huge success of Moana in te reo. Chelsea found her own children watched Disney on repeat (in the English language) and thought of no better opportunity to embrace te reo than with Disney-sanctioned redubs (musical numbers and all!). Now Moana, The Lion King and later this year Frozen will all be available to play on repeat to drive Kiwi parents crazy, this time in te reo. Hakuna Matata!

Screening: Nationwide from June 24, and Māoriland Film Festival June 29 to July 3.

Chelsea Winstanley joined our te ao Māori podcast Nē? to talk The Lion King this week. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider. 

We Are Still Here

It’s not often a film with Māori themes opens a big international film festival, but so it is in 2022 with We Are Still Here, a Māori-Aboriginal-Pasifika anthology feature screening opening night at the Sydney Film Festival. With borders opened, our filmmakers will be winging their way over for a landmark night of Indigenous cinema.

The filmmakers involved in this film were asked to respond to the anniversary of Cook’s landing in New Zealand and Australia 250 years ago, but they responded to producers that that was the last thing they wanted to do. Instead, they made an incredible anthology from the time of the ancients to futures unknown. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m thinking it will be an Indigenous Cloud Atlas – sprawling and entrancing and completely original. Directors who worked on the film include Renae Maihi, Tim Worrall and Richard Curtis.

Screening: Sydney Film Festival, June 8. NZIFF Whānau Mārama, Auckland and nationwide from July 28.


This year, for the very first time, we are all getting our own Indigenous Matariki holiday on June 24. What better day to go and see new release Whina, the story of the mother of our nation? The film follows Dame Whina Cooper from her birth in Te Karaka in 1895 to her island-length march for Māori land rights in the 1970s. Miriama McDowell plays young adult Whina; screen veteran Rena Own the older kuia. Co-directed by Paula Whetu Jones (Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Porou) and James Napier Robertson, with Tainui Stephens one of the producers.

Screening: Nationwide from June 24, and Māoriland Film Festival, Ōtaki, June 29 to July 3.

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star

Auckland audiences get to see on the big screen what they missed last year at their cancelled NZIFF, with a very special Matariki-time screening of Whetū Mārama – Bright Star at Doc Edge. Navigational pioneer Sir Hekenukumai Puhipi Busby passed recently, but before then Toby Mills and Aileen O’Sullivan got to make this stunning documentary on his life and work.

Screening: Doc Edge at The Civic, Auckland, June 24.


After two years of Covid upheaval, NZIFF is back nationwide and hosting the world premiere of Kāinga. Following the success of Waru (NZIFF 2017) and Vai (2019), the trilogy is compled with Kāinga, an anthology from eight Pan-Asian female filmmakers crafting unique stories chronicling the diverse, ever-changing experiences of Asians trying to make Aotearoa New Zealand their home. Though not Māori-themed, the Māori connection is made in this film with the eponymous kāinga (house) all the films are set in, and writer Mei-Lin Te Puea Hansen is of Chinese/ Māori descent.

Screening: NZIFF Whānau Mārama, Auckland and nationwide from July 28.

Thor: Love and Thunder

I’m still waiting for the reo-reversioning of Thor: Ragnarok, but while I wait I will join the throngs of Marvel-Taika fans to see its sequel, a sure fire hit made by one of Time’s Hot 100 influencers. Look for more mad moments of Māori meme-age like the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Once Were Warriors homage in Thor: Ragnarok of course Korg, the rock man voiced by Taika himself with the accent of a Samoan-Kiwi bouncer, will be back!).

Screening: Worldwide, from July 7.

Māori film festivals over Matariki

Wairoa Māori Film Festival, June 2 to 6.

There really is no better way to kick off Māori film season than with a feast of cinema in marae and theatres on the East Coast of Kiwiland (OK, full disclosre – it’s the festival I run!). This year’s festival features more than 50 films on Māori, Pasifika and global indigenous themes.

The hot ticket is the WIFT Mana Wahine High Tea at Kahungunu Marae and this year’s Mana Wahine award recipient is Desray Armstrong, a prolific producer who has worked with the likes of Charlotte Rampling (Juniper) and has had features screen at Sundance, Berlinale and the Moscow Film Festival.

Māoriland Film Festival, June 29 to July 3.

Delayed from March to June because of Covid constraints, Māoriland marks the later weeks of Matariki, with the Kāpiti Coast town of Ōtaki bursting to life the weekend after our new Matariki holiday. Another sprawling feast of Māori and indigenous cinema, the festival’s highlight has to be the keynote speech by veteran broadcaster and actor Waihoroi Shortland (Ngāti Hine, Te Aupouri) at the stunning Rangiatea Church. Last year’s korero with Rena Owen packed out the church and this year’s event promises the same.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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