TV3’s movie expert Kate Rodger writes about a New Zealand movie that faces up to one of our nation’s most shameful social issues.
Starring Miriama McDowell, Tanea Heke, Roimata Fox and Acacia Hapi. Written and directed by Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Ainsley Gardiner, Katie Wolfe, Renae Maihi, Chelsea Cohen, Paula Jones, Awanui Simich-Pene & Josephone Stewart-Te Whiu.
Ibelieve it’s our responsibility to embrace stories designed to jolt us awake, crafted to dig deep under our skin, existing to make us think and think differently. Waru is one of those stories. The film is in fact eight stories woven together to tell one, streams of consciousness pumping blood to the heart of the narrative and collectively bringing together the talents of eight talented female Maori film-makers.
Each chapter has a different view, each inhabited by different female protagonists, but each subtly interlinked either directly or as a splinter off one shocking event: the death of a child at the hands of his caregiver. It’s confronting, it’s volatile, thick with grief, rage, a guilty impotence and a tormented desperation.
As you might expect from a feature piece comprised of essentially eight short films, there are strengths and weaknesses in the telling. Choosing to shoot each one as a one-camera single shot in real time was a brave endeavour, one that for the
This film speaks to everyone.
most part reaps big rewards but in places does come with a slightly rehearsed and unnatural beat. Most of the performances, though, are solid and complete with several standouts. Young newcomer Acacia Hapi, under the direction of Paula Jones, packs an enormously powerful punch; seasoned performers Miriama McDowell and Tanea Heke do the same in their respective stories. Also noteworthy is Roimata Fox as an adulterous school teacher struggling to process her feelings of guilt and shame.
Yes, Waru is about Maori women facing up to the violence and the silence within their whanau and their community, but this film speaks to everyone – all New Zealanders, of course, but far beyond our shores too.
It goes without saying we can choose to spend our hard-earned dollars and our precious time watching Dame Judi play a Queen, Ryan Reynolds in the role of a bodyguard, or take the kids to another one of those crazy fun Lego movies – and please still do one or all of the above! But I also urge you to stop, take a breath, and remember the power cinema has to effect real change, to remind us that the more we communicate and the more we see into the heart of things, the better we are as human beings.
Waru is an opportunity to do all of those things.