Poi E: The story of our song

A doco gets a cho­rus of ap­proval from TV3’s movie expert Kate Rodger.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ENTERTAINMENT -


Cho­sen to open the New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val this year, the slow-build hype on this long-ges­tat­ing doc­u­men­tary about the hit song Poi E promised an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

And so it is.

Miss Poi E: The Story of Our Song at your peril – it will de­servedly set­tle into its right­ful place in our cul­tural her­itage, along with the song it­self.

In 1984, Poi E reached num­ber one on the lo­cal pop charts and re­mained in the list for 34 weeks. It out­sold Thriller, for good­ness’ sake. It’s been in the NZ Top 10 ev­ery decade for the past 30 years.

But more im­por­tant than any of those sta­tis­tics is the fact that Poi E was the first num­ber-one song writ­ten and re­leased en­tirely in te reo Maori. And this film is as much the story of Maori and their lan­guage, as it is about a pop song.

Clearly a pas­sion project for film­maker Tearepa Kahi, the film is a love song in it­self. He was just seven years old when Poi E hit the charts in his home­town of Christchurch, but it has res­onated with him ever since.

While the star of the show must be the late Dalvanius Prime, of course, and this film is mostly told through him, there are many other stars here, and not just the ob­vi­ous ones, like Taika Waititi, Stan

Walker and the Topp Twins.

In fact – full re­spect – they are merely the back­drop for the cast of char­ac­ters we’re in­tro­duced to in the Patea Maori

Club, and their friends, fam­i­lies and sup­port­ers. Dis­arm­ing and charm­ing, hi­lar­i­ous and mov­ing, their nar­ra­tion of this story is both wildly en­ter­tain­ing and in­deli­bly mem­o­rable. And above all, 100 per cent Kiwi.

Kahi tells his story with a mix of in­tu­itively cu­rated archival footage and recre­ations, aug­mented by home movies and am­ple in­ter­views.

The use of archive – from old TVNZ news sto­ries to clas­sic episodes of chart show

Ready to Roll, or RTR as it be­came known, is man­aged per­fectly.

For this teenager of the 1980s, it was ter­ri­fy­ing in its fa­mil­iar­ity, from the clothes to the streets to the cars to the peo­ple.

And of course, to the music.

This is the story of our song, but it’s also the story of the 80s ur­ban drift from small-town New Zealand to the city, from the marae to the mall, of freez­ing works clo­sures and the in­ex­orable cul­tural dis­con­nect. It’s Patea’s story. And like their song, this film be­longs to them. Poi E was never just a Maori song, it was a New Zealand song, our song.

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