Cel­e­brat­ing Maori voice in films

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - CARLY THOMAS

It started as a fes­ti­val run by the seat of its pants, but the Mao­ri­land Film Fes­ti­val has turned into an an­nual event that swells the pop­u­la­tion of Otaki.

The fes­ti­val cel­e­brates in­dige­nous voices and sto­ry­telling in film, showinga se­lec­tion of movies from around the world.

Fes­ti­val co-or­di­na­tor Madeleine de Young said it was in its fourth year and or­gan­is­ers were hop­ing to top last year’s at­ten­dance of over 7000 peo­ple.

The fes­ti­val be­gan when its creators no­ticed a gap for in­dige­nous films in the South­ern Hemi­sphere and also from an­other dis­cov­ery of chance.

‘‘The fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Libby Hakaraia was go­ing through some archives down at Nga Taonga and she came across these films that were made in the 1920s in Otaki.’’

They were pro­duced by the short­lived Aus­tralian com­pany, Fed­er­ated Fea­ture Films Ltd, which, de Young said, ‘‘loved the light in Otaki’’.

‘‘They wanted to make Otaki the Los Angeles of the South Pa­cific, ba­si­cally, and it was a bit boom and bust.

‘‘But one thing we found was a ti­tle card and it says, ‘Otaki, the land of Mao­ri­land films and the home of the Los Angeles of New Zealand’s mov­ing pic­ture in­dus­try’ and so it made Libby go ‘that’s it, we have to do some­thing.’’.

The five-day fes­ti­val in­cludes sto­ries from na­tive Hawai­ians, the Sami na­tion in Swe­den, first na­tion from Canada and the Yakel Tribe in Van­u­atu.

‘‘I think that slowly the world is get­ting more in­ter­ested and more at­tuned to in­dige­nous sto­ries and there is so much more sup­port now that these films aren’t just on the fringe any­more.

They are get­ting fur­ther and fur­ther into the main­stream,’’ De Young said.

The fes­ti­val runs from March 15-19 at a va­ri­ety of venues in Otaki.

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