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AROHA’17 Festival of Ideas

Aroha’17 Festival of Ideas, the Mika Haka Foundation’s annual diversity and social change festival, opens on February 15 with a one-night-only film festival at Event Cinemas Broadway. A highlight of the Aroha’17 Film Festival is the World Premiere of In the Morning, a short music film starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, which is a prelude to a planned feature film by producer Mika Haka, the creative visionary behind Aroha ’17. Keisha will be attending.

On arrival at the red carpet “dress to express” event, guests will experience new music and fashion, then two cinemas will simultaneously run different programmes of short films from around the world. The “Fever Dreams” programme covers innovation in sci-fi, animation, native activism with films starring Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, while the “Hero” programme explores fresh ideas around queer gender and diversity.

The main feature is psychological horror The Unbidden, a film by Quentin Lee (Ethan Mal, White Frog), starring Tamlyn Tomita (The Day After Tomorrow), Amy Hill (UNReal), Julia Nickson (Rambo First Blood: Part II) and Hayden Szeto (The Edge of Seventeen). The other main bill option is the Aroha ’17 Awards finalists – short films from six countries with award categories including diversity, writing, direction and te reo.

The All-Stars GALA fundraiser on February 18 at HALO Club and Restaurant, the new venue on the Greys Ave/Mayoral Drive corner, is part of the festival’s focus on youth suicide awareness and prevention. The GALA is an evening of comedy, pop and cabaret starring Mike King, Megan Alatini and Mika Haka and Friends. Profits will be split between King’s Key to Life organisation and Mika Haka Foundation to support ongoing suicide prevention programmes.

Over the past two years, the Aroha’17 Festival of Ideas has become the space where young people work towards awareness and prevention of suicide, the major issue for youth in New Zealand. This year, dozens of young people participated in The Aroha Project Series 3 supported by Te Puni Kokiri: A series of 60-second personal stories to be launched on Instagram during Aroha ’17. Earlier series are available on Maori Television, TVNZ On Demand and MikaHakaStudio’s YouTube.

Mika describes this year’s Aroha’17 Festival of Ideas as “quality with edge and yet it’s not exclusive – people can just turn up in their jandals and they will be welcome, a boy can wear a dress and be welcome. Travelling to many festivals around the world I’ve noticed there’s a feeling of dropping the pretence of trying to be something more than it actually is, for example there’s a trend for the stars to mingle with the audiences more than before.”

Mika’s strong links with New York City nightlife have led to the import of cyber-soul artist GypjaQ (pronounced Jip-Jack) to headline the NYC House Party to be held at Mika’s Mt Roskill studio on February 22. The night will feature original works from spoken word artists Jasper Powell, Liam Jacobson and Mokoera Te Amo, world champion King Home Boy and mellow acoustic rock from Ramon Te Wake.

The Festival finale on February 24 at Mangere Arts Centre is a Dance Double Bill which debuts original works by up and coming choreographers Kasina Campbell, whose work “Mendes” explores her recently-discovered Yugoslavian ancestry, and Eddie Elliott whose work “Intuition – An Attempt at Sense” looks at intuition, instinct and creativity.

The Festival also gives opportunities for interactive online engagements, digital new releases of music and films, livestream connections to NYC nightclub action, fashion activations, live discussions, hang-out zones, performances and a general buzz of activity around diversity, creativity and social life, all of which reinforces the serious intent of youth suicide prevention by providing real-life interaction.

The full programme is here.

Image: In the Morning, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes