Otaki put itself on the world map with its indigenous film festival last month.
This was the second occasion, and we can look forward to it becoming an important event on the cultural calendar.
120 short films, 10 feature films and 10 documentaries from indigenous film makers all over the world were viewed in the Civic Theatre, Nga Purapura and Hadfield Hall.
Walking down the main street, you could hear new accents, see new people and even recognise the occasional film star. A couple of Londoners in their campervan decided that Otaki was the cultural centre of the universe, immersing themselves in a week-long cinematic orgy. Film makers came from Canada, USA, Hawaii, Germany, Scandinavia and Australia.
The event was the work of Libby Hakaraia, Tainui Stephens, Tania and Pat Hakaraia, aided and abetted by an army of volunteers. For a modest $6 per film you could see a montage of short films from all over the world, right up to two blockbuster kiwi films: the acclaimed The Dark Horse and The Dead Lands.
Tania Hakaraia reckoned that her best films were Reel Injun and a Hawaiian documentary Visions in the Dark. I was enthralled with The Dead Lands, with te reo soundtrack and English subtitles. Despite the violent theme, it was a movie to remember, even more so because Tainui Stephens introduced it, answered questions afterwards, and introduced us to the stars James Rolleston and Lawrence Makoare.
Youth were not forgotten either. Nga Purapura hosted the E tu Whanau Rangatahi Filmmaking Awards with over 400 students, teachers and filmgoers packing the venue. This years competition attracted submissions from 8 schools ranging from Taupo, Manawatu, Otaki and Porirua. The standard of the wining entry from Tuwharetoa surprised the judging panel who considered it to be a short film worthy of a wider audience.
One delightful touch was the presence of two rangatahi (local school pupils) who introduced each session in te reo and in English with great flair and charm.
At the weekend Hadfield Hall featured documentary films, which were well attended, and provoked very positive feedback.
And finally there was the Red Carpet party in the Civic theatre on Saturday night. Tickets were limited to 200, and the entertainment provided by Auckland’s Modern Maori Quartet who wowed the audience with a polished professional musical pot-pourri. Half the theatre made it on to the dance floor on several occasions.
Altogether a great week to put Otaki on the map of indigenous films. We can’t wait until next year’s Film Festival!
Lawrence Makoare at the feet of international film makers