Shining a Light on the Maoriland Film Festival

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Students from the Ōtaki Kura sing a welcome song as the Maoriland Film Festival visitors are called onto Raukawa Marae

The third Maoriland Film Festival began in Easter week with the 72 hour Native Slam short film making competition involving teams of local and visiting international indigenous film makers, who were later welcomed at a powhiri on Raukawa Marae.

F_R_MFFLogoAll visitors were formally welcomed onto the marae with a powhiri. Students from Ōtaki’s kura — Te Kura KaupapaMaori O te Rito, Te Kura-a-iwi O Whakatupurunga Rua Mano and Ōtaki School’s Te Korowai Whakamana pupils, led the welcoming song as the visitors came onto the marae. The welcome was followed by speakers and responses from both the Ōtaki leaders and visitors, among them the United States of America ambassador, Mark Gilbert. The embassy had sponsored indigenous Americans to attend the Maoriland festival. Following formalities was the traditional welcome with a hongi, before everyone went into the whare kai, dining hall, for morning tea.

Among those attending the festival this year are native Americans; Echota Killsnight, a northern Cheyenne-Cherokee from Talhtequah Oklahoma and mother and son filmmakers Houston Cypress and Renee Manyari, Otter clan Micosukee tribe Indians from Florida. Echota began his early filmmaking days with skate boarding videos. He is now enrolled at the Institute of American Indian Arts studying film writing and is currently writing a full feature film. Houston has mainly worked on documentaries, music videos and short films and he is an environmental advocate for the Everglades region. His mum has one short film completed and is currently brainstorming a second film.

Among this year’s festival highlights are three New Zealand feature films, Lee Tamahori’s Mahana, hip hop dance film Born to Dance directed by Tammy Davis and the Samoan story Three Wise Cousins produced by Wilhelm Voig. There are also three international indigenous feature films and nearly 100 short films screened, documentaries and workshops on all aspects of filmmaking and the screening of the Et Tu Whanau Rangatahi schools film competition. So much over just a few days, often it was a difficult choice which to view!

Mahana and Born to Dance were both screened to near-capacity crowds at Nga Purapura, totally different, both very, very powerful stories. Multi award winning Parris Goebel’s choreography of the hip hop dance film was incredible and loved, very noisily by the younger ones watching, but left a new appreciation of the uniqueness and energy of the hip hop genre.

The 10 films submitted for the Et Tu Rangatahi Whanau awards were all very interesting. Some used unusual camera and editing techniques, some film makers created their own music, a couple were straight fiction, three made in a documentary style. Schools as far north as Otara Auckland, Manawatu and the Hutt Valley to Ōtaki submitted films, all based on the Et Tu Whanau core values —

  • Being a Father is Easy, Being a Dad is Not;
  • Your Ancestors Sit on Your Shoulders to Keep Your Feet on the Ground;
  • Leave Big Footsteps for Your Children to Follow and
  • The World and All Things in It Are Treasures, But the Most Treasured of All is Your Mother.

More on these next month.

By late Saturday there were just the Native Slam films to show and the Red Carpet party at the Civic, and a full Sunday screening with the repeat screening of Three Wise Cousins, to bring another huge festive week to Ōtaki to a wrap. More: Native Slam Films | MFF star Sunna Nousuniemi all the way from from Finland