Friday, October 9, 2009

Of Film and Marae

It was a pleasant afternoon back in early May when I arrived in the small Hokianga settlement of Whirinaki in the Far North. The first thing that caught my eye were the two cute red-roofed churches – they stand like little beacons all over rural Northland and I love them. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop and visit them but I did drive down the road that lead to Whirinaki School, the local kohanga reo (Maori pre-school) and Moria Marae. I didn’t venture anywhere near the marae as the flag was flying and there were people all about. The flag is usually the sign of a tangi (funeral) in progress and I think people deserve privacy at times like that.
I have since discovered that Moria Marae recently hosted the 3rd Hokianga Film Festival, which acknowledged the feature films of the late Barry Barclay, an influential New Zealand filmmaker, theorist and writer, who took part in the 2007 festival.
Barclay was and still is highly regarded within the New Zealand film industry. His television series Tangata Whenua and his feature films The Neglected Miracle, Te Rua, The Feathers of Peace and The Kaipara Affair all cemented him as someone with a unique ability to understand - and capture on film – the essence of Maori community and bicultural New Zealand. I would have enjoyed seeing the 2009 festival with its emphasis on locally-produced material telling local stories. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity for established and aspiring filmmakers to come together to learn and share their skills and knowledge, it also provides an insight into the often unsung heroes of local communities – and within Maori communities there is a richness of story-telling that to my mind, is frequently overlooked. It’s good to see that this festival is well supported by Creative New Zealand, The Film Archive, the New Zealand Film Commission and the Hokianga Community Educational Trust.

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