ĀteaApril 10, 2019

Kaupapa on the Couch: let’s go to the movies!


Film is a powerful influence in our lives that shapes how we see the world, and how we see ourselves. So it’s pretty important that we see people that look like us up on the big screen.

New Zealand has an incredible film history – dark, funny, innovative, evocative of our past and peculiar worldview. Within that, Māori cinema has etched a very special place in our national psyche, and reached global audiences with its heart and unique cultural perspective.

I was getting bored of the Kaupapa on the Couch studio so I decided to haerenga down to Ōtaki to watch some cool films, and talk to some really smart people about the importance of indigenous representation in film.

Ngā mihi nui ki a NZ On Air

Films we saw and loved at Māoriland Film Festival

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen (2018)

One name that cropped up in nearly every conversation at Māoriland was Merata Mita. The pioneering filmmaker was hugely influential on global indigenous cinema. This documentary is an intimate portrayal of Merata Mita told through the eyes of her children, using hours of archive footage, some never before seen, directed by her youngest child and director Hepi Mita. This film will be getting a general release on Mother’s Day May 12th.

Vai (2019)

Vai is a portmanteau feature film made by nine female Pacific filmmakers, filmed in seven different Pacific countries: Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa. From the producers who brought us Waru, the film is about the journey of Vai, played by a different indigenous actress in each of the Pacific countries. In each of these Pacific nations ‘vai’ means water. (Read Madeleine Chapman’s review here)

Connection to Country (2017)

A visually stunning film! The Burrup Peninsula (or Murujuga) is host to the largest concentration of rock art in the world, dating back over 40,000 years. It’s a dramatic and ancient landscape so sacred that some parts shouldn’t be looked upon at all, except by Traditional Owners. Waves of industrialisation and development threaten sites all over the region, but the people of the Pilbara – forever connected to country, forever responsible – are fighting back. Documenting the rock art, recording sacred sites and battling to get their unique cultural heritage recognised, ‘digitised’ and celebrated.

Fast Horse

Alexandra Lazarowich’s (Cree) award-winning Fast Horse is a rare look at the world of bareback horse racing, where jockeys ride horses bareback and jump from one horse to another in the middle of the race. The film is told through the experience of one Siksika horseman, Alison RedCrow, as he strives to build a team and take on the best riders in the Blackfoot Confederacy. At only 14 minutes long, it’s an incredible snapshot of action, drama, tradition, friendship and family.

Moananuiākea: One Ocean. One Canoe. One People. (2018)



Moananuiākea is a feature-length documentary about the Hawai’ian ocean-voyaging waka Hōkūleʻa and its most ambitious journey to date: the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage. Many Māori and Pacific wayfarers have learned the ancient art on this proud vessel, and the documentary takes you along for a magnificent journey of a lifetime.

There are so many more to explore, take a look at past Māoriland programmes, Wairoa Māori Film Festival programmes and archive sites like NZ On Screen.

Keep going!