Mu­sic tells story

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIELLE STREET

BE­ING asked to cre­ate the sound­track for a film about a con­victed mur­derer was too big an op­por­tu­nity for one high school mu­si­cian to pass up.

Ti­hema Ben­nett leapt at the chance when his dad ap­proached him about writ­ing the mu­sic for a doc­u­men­tary he was di­rect­ing.

‘‘He thought it might be quite cool for his son to do the mu­sic and I was re­ally keen,’’ the 17-year-old says.

The doc­u­men­tary ti­tled The Con­fes­sions of Pris­oner T will pre­miere on Maori Tele­vi­sion on Sun­day.

It delves into the story of Teina Pora who has spent two decades in Pare­moremo prison for a crime that many peo­ple, in­clud­ing se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers, be­lieve he didn’t com­mit.

The Mon­grel Mob as­so­ciate was ar­rested in 1994 for the rape and mur­der of Susan Bur­dett in her Pa­p­a­toe­toe home two years ear­lier.

The doc­u­men­tary hears from key peo­ple – Mr Pora, his fam­ily, lawyers, ex­pert wit­nesses and the vic­tim’s fam­ily. It also fol­lows the last-ditch ap­peal to the gover­nor-gen­eral to have the case set aside.

Ti­hema says meet­ing Mr Pora dur­ing a rare home visit and sub­se­quent phone con­ver­sa­tions helped in­spire his com­po­si­tions.

‘‘I’ve met Teina and I knew the story re­ally well, so I was work­ing off that and what I imag­ined 20 years of be­ing in prison was like,’’ the Western Springs Col­lege stu­dent says.

Mr Pora still main­tains his in­no­cence and made his 11th ap­pear­ance in front of the pa­role board in April.

It de­cided he would stay in prison for at least an­other six months.

Mr Pora was around the same age as Ti­hema when he was im­pris­oned.

‘‘The idea of some­one my age be­ing in prison for so long is unreal,’’ Ti­hema says.

Dur­ing their first meet­ing the two men quickly found com­mon ground – Mr Pora plays in a band in prison.

‘‘He was telling me that he is re­ally into gui­tar and the blues and mu­sic was a huge part of keep­ing his brain ac­tive dur­ing his years in prison,’’ Ti­hema says.

‘‘Find­ing out that he was in­ter­ested in mu­sic made my job a bit more spe­cial.’’

The teen has com­posed a gritty, dis­torted sound­track to re­flect the anger and sad­ness sur­round­ing the story.

‘‘There are two ma­jor mu­si­cal themes in the film – there is the softer re­flec­tive mu­sic which has lots of clean gui­tar and piano. But a big chunk of the film is the heav­ier dis­torted gui­tar.’’

The Grey Lynn res­i­dent started play­ing the piano at age 5. He has now mas­tered gui­tar, ukulele, sax and bass.

Cre­at­ing the score for The Con­fes­sions of Pris­oner T is the first time he has com­posed mu­sic for a film.

In Septem­ber Ti­hema will be at­tend­ing a mu­sic school in Venezuela as part of an ex­change pro­gramme to work with kids liv­ing in poverty and help them through mu­sic.

He hopes the doc­u­men­tary will act as a spring­board for a fu­ture ca­reer in the film industry.

‘‘The ideal would be a direc­tor/com­poser and mak­ing in­die short films and the mu­sic for them. I’d love to do that for a liv­ing.’’


Tal­ented: Western Springs Col­lege stu­dent Ti­hema Ben­nett has writ­ten the sound­track to a doc­u­men­tary about con­victed mur­derer Teina Pora. Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to see a a clip from The Con­fes­sions of Pris­oner T.

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