Since my last column for Festival Fare a lot has happened.
We pulled off our third and most successful Māoriland Film Festival in March: 132 films, 5 days of screenings. 27 international guests, the ‘Native Slam’ film collaboration, our first Māori filmmaker award, 11 films in our nationwide rangatahi film competition, our first artist installations, and audiences of about 7,500.
All in Sunny Ōtaki!
It was such an ambitious event for our little team and we were wiped out by the end of it. We went to nearby Kāpiti Island for a debrief, and to recharge our batteries. Sitting on the deck amidst all of that island’s beautiful flora and birdlife we came to the following conclusions:
We are committed to Māoriland’s kaupapa to celebrate indigenous film. From the overwhelmingly positive feedback we receive, we know there is an appetite for the films we show. We must consolidate so that we can survive for many years to come.
In a very short time the Māoriland Film Festival has become the largest indigenous film festival in the southern hemisphere. There are some simple reasons for that:
- Māori Film is an unstoppable force. Not only do our films travel to festivals around the world, the four current top box office hits in New Zealand are those with Māori key creatives and content.
- There are more and more indigenous films being made overseas every year. They come from countries as diverse as Australia, Finland, and Iran. Our festival has excellent relationships with filmmakers and film organisations worldwide.
- We are committed to supporting all indigenous filmmakers. We include the young people in our community who are discovering that they too, want to make big screen stories.
- The Ōtaki Māori community is a powerful force in our region. We have a high level of cultural awareness, and te reo Māori is flourishing. Our driving tikanga is to look after those who come to our festival. This is called manaakitanga.
- We have a plan for organisational growth that links into the long-term cultural and economic aims of our community.
Leaving Kāpiti and returning to Ōtaki with renewed energy, we decided we need a building to house all our aims. There is an old department store that we wish to turn into a cinema and multi purpose arts space. We began to negotiate with the owners. They are excited by our idea to purchase the building and do a complete refit. Now we need to find backers to help make the dream a reality.
The feedback from potential funders is very positive. There are a lot of applications to write and a lot of supporting material to prepare. It’s a slog and I start to wonder if all the effort of the past three years is: one; worth it, and two; where the light is at the end of the tunnel?!
But a lot can happen in a week for a film festival director. Last week was particularly exciting …
On Friday, while labouring at yet another funding application, an email arrived in my inbox asking if my husband Tainui Stephens and I could travel to the Gold Coast to support Taika Waititi on Day One of the shoot for his new feature film.
By Sunday we were on a plane talking non-stop with Cliff Curtis about all manner of schemes including how to get more Maori films made.
On Monday, our small support crew along with Taika’s sister Tweedie, his wife Chelsea and various of our tamariki gathered at the massive Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast. As Taika was about to direct the Hollywood blockbuster THOR, he wanted to start the shoot with appropriate ceremonies of welcome from the local Aboriginal Yugambeh people – and a response from we Māori. Many of the crew and cast including ‘Thor’ and ‘Hulk’ were really moved by the blessing. To witness Taika so calm and ready for the four month multi-million dollar shoot, was exhilarating.
Home on Tuesday we sent another round of letters out for our Boosted crowd funding campaign to raise money for The Native Slam; a film collaboration between 5 teams of indigenous filmmakers from all over the world. Just prior to the March Festival these 5 teams made a short film each in different parts of the New Zealand with the following brief: Each team had a budget of $800 to make a film that heals. They had 72 hours to do it. It was a fabulous exercise and we got 5 terrific short films out of it. We are raising funds to complete the post-production.
On Wednesday we arranged for two groups of students in Otaki to attend the film workshops run by the excellent ‘Outlook For Someday’ environmental film competition. Two of our 12 year old filmmakers won awards last year, and this year a new batch of bright-eyed storytellers wanted to see what they could achieve. It was a thrill to have dinner that night with one 11 year old and her grandparents, and to hear her deconstruct the way the workshops were held, and to offer constructive analysis about the way her film is going to come together.
On Thursday we went to show Māori short films to the senior staff of a potential sponsor in Wellington. It was clear that for many of these people, they had never really experienced short films; let alone indigenous ones of such depth and diversity.
On Friday we had separate visits here at home from two very successful filmmakers involved in numerous Māori films. Both have awesome projects on their slate.
It was an exciting week in our Māoriland multiverse and we celebrated with an email from Taika saying he’d had a very successful first week. He even finished early! Only 80 shooting days to go!
If all goes to plan we’ll be screening Taika’s films – and many many more – in the new multi purpose art space, The Māoriland Hub, by the time you read our next column in Festival Fare.
Tūrou Hawaiki! May the force be with us!