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Clockwise from top left: I Am Paradise, Mauri, Coco Reo Māori, Maunga Cassino, Whetū Mārama – Bright Star.
Clockwise from top left: I Am Paradise, Mauri, Coco Reo Māori, Maunga Cassino, Whetū Mārama – Bright Star.

ĀteaJuly 13, 2023

A feast of Māori movies to see on the big screen this Matariki

Clockwise from top left: I Am Paradise, Mauri, Coco Reo Māori, Maunga Cassino, Whetū Mārama – Bright Star.
Clockwise from top left: I Am Paradise, Mauri, Coco Reo Māori, Maunga Cassino, Whetū Mārama – Bright Star.

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

Matariki is traditionally a time of remembrance and storytelling. In ancient times, we gathered around the fireplace and shared oral histories, moteatea and waiata. In modern times, we gather in a cinema, a marae or around our giant screen television.

With the Matariki long weekend upon us, Matariki Day brings a wealth of Māori movies, and a range of Matariki-time events where you can watch them.

The Wairoa Māori Film Festival has this year been postponed from Matariki timing because of our flooding disaster. In its stead, we have this year partnered with Te Papa, City Gallery Wellington, Auckland Council and Corban Estate Arts Centre to present a wealth of Māori movies across the motu.

There are also amazing films at Silky Otter and NZIFF Whānau Mārama, and the national release of Disney’s Coco Reo Māori.

Here are 10 great Māori movies to check out on the big screen this Matariki. Nau mai, haere mai!

Tiki Taane in Session with CSO

Tiki Taane in Session with the CSO

Fans of dub musician Tiki Taane are in for a treat with the film of his one-off 2021 concert extravaganza, Ōtautahi Proud. Filmed in front of a sold-out audience at the fully refurbished Christchurch Town Hall, the film captures an emotional and explosive performance with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Stunningly shot and superbly mixed, it has raised the bar with what can be achieved when collaborating with a 50-piece orchestra. Screens at NZIFF Christchurch then nationwide, which I’m really excited about.

I Am Paradise

Ricky-Lee Russell Waipuke in I Am Paradise

NZIFF Ngā Whanaunga this year features five Māori-made short films in a programme I’m curating along with Craig Fasi of Pollywood Film Festival. One that warrants particular mention is I Am Paradise by Hiona Henare. Workshopped through the Berlinale Talents programme, the short film stars Ricky Lee Russell Waipuka (you previously saw her on the big screen as Chardonnay in Boy) as a fierce mum dealing with a dad in jail and hungry kids at home. After years in development, Henare did a revamp of the film following time in the Amazon jungle with slow cinema auteur Apichatpong Weerasathakul. With a killer new soundtrack by Riki Gooch and a moodier feel, the film finally makes it to the big screen on the opening weekend of NZIFF.  Watch the trailer here.

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star

Navigational pioneer Sir Hekenukumai Puhipi Busby has passed, but before then Toby Mills and Aileen O’Sullivan got to make this stunning documentary on his life and work. Amazingly still in cinemas over a year since release, Whetū Mārama – Bright Star will grace the big screen at free screenings at Te Papa Wellington and Auckland Town Hall, both on Matariki Day.

Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau

Visitors to City Gallery Wellington on Matariki Day can check out a day of Whānau Shorts as well as Nova Paul’s moving image work Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau, which includes short film Hawaiki which premiered at Sundance earlier this year. Filmed on remote Aotea (Great Barrier Island), film follows the children of Okiwi School as they make a refuge they call Hawaiki, a place with spiritual and metaphysical connections for Māori and a space for the children’s self-determination. Presented as an art installation moving image work until October 8.

Maunga Cassino

Maunga Cassino began its life as the theatre show Strange Resting Places, co-written by Paolo Rotondo and Rob Mokaraka. Premiering in New Zealand at NZIFF (after winning awards in Italy), this film is completely in the Italian and Māori languages, with stylised black and white cinematography by Fred Renata. It is screening nationwide at NZIFF Whanau Marama with the equally exciting Sweet As by Australian Aboriginal filmmaker Jub Clerc.

Coco Reo Māori

Coco Reo Māori

Producers Chelsea Winstanley and Tweedie Waititi continue their success dubbing Disney hits (musical and all) into te reo Māori. Last year, it was The Lion King Reo Māori, this year it’s Coco Reo Māori, opening nationwide on Matariki Day. Come and sing along to all the hits (now in te reo Māori) but do save some of your pennies for the big one later in the year: Reo Encanto. Chelsea Winstanley began this project to give her own children something from popular culture in their own language – long may it continue!

The Fourth Cinema Canon


Chelsea Winstanley has been busy. Along with the reo Māori Disney hits, she has established Ahi, Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia’s newest film distribution collective. Partnering with Silky Otter Cinemas, Ahi is presenting what I would describe as the Fourth Cinema canon: four seminal New Zealand works that define the early days of independent Māori film making. With the films Ngāti, Patu! and Mauri, we found our voice, inspired Indigenous filmmakers globally and created a whole new genre: Fourth Cinema, as defined by Barry Barclay and advanced globally by Merata Mita. Check out these three films along with Geoff Murphy’s Utu, one day only at Silky Otter cinemas nationwide, Matariki Day, July 14.

What’s on where

New Zealand International Film Festival Whānau Marama, Auckland and nationwide from July 19th

Matariki Day At The Movies, Matariki Day July 14, Silky Otter cinemas nationwide

Wairoa Māori Film Festival screenings: Maiea Pōhutukawa, July 14 Matariki Day, Te Papa, Wellington (programme here)

Whānau Shorts, July 14 Matariki Day, City Gallery Wellington (programme here)

Kiriata Matariki, July 14 Matariki Day, Auckland Town Hall

Kia Ora Shorts, July 19 & 20, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Auckland

Māoriland – Ngā Pakiaka films, July 14 & 20, Takapuna, Auckland

Keep going!