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Ahead of Ngā Aho Whakaari’s Hui-A-Tau and awards later this week, NAW chair Christina Asher took time to share some of the highlights of the programme.

With several sessions named for leading lights among Māori screen practitioners, “each session offers an opportunity to pay tribute to the people who went out on a limb,” said Asher. There’s a sense of history and continuity running through the programme, appropriately for a 20th anniversary event.

“We’re a lot tamer now,” Asher added, “but we still want things to shift and develop.”

Journalist, actor, writer and cultural advisor Waihoroi Shortland will bookend the hui programme, giving Friday’s opening address and leading the debate which closes the event on Saturday.

Also offer on the opening day will be several of the industry heavy hitters including NZ On Air’s Jane Wrightson and Larry Parr, just announced as the new CEO of Te Mangai Paho. Parr will return Saturday for a session on online content with NZ On Air’s Brenda Leeuwenberg.

MTS CEO Paora Maxwell will deliver a keynote, and there’ll be sessions with Poi E director Te Arepa Kahi, writer and director Michael Bennett, and several others. The first day wraps with Celebrating the Māori Voice on Screen, offering up Kahi, Lee Tamahori, Himiona Grace, Tammy Davis and Cliff Curtis, followed by Australian filmmaker Darlene Johnson presenting a screening.

Other international guests include the Berlinale’s expat Kiwi, Maryanne Redpath, who heads the Generation programme which has given a home to several NZ titles in recent years. Bailey Mackey, busy launching new production software KAHA ahead of trips to MIPCOM and NAB, will join a panel on monetising content that also includes former NZ On Air board member Nicole Hoey and Whitebait’s Janine Morrell-Gunn.

Saturday’s programme includes pitching sessions focused on building capacity. “We don’t have enough Māori making features. Shorts to features is a big step,” Asher said.

However, as Dave Gibson noted in his recent Big Screen Symposium presentation, half of the best-performing 20 NZ features come from Māori filmmakers so (in population terms) there’s some very impressive over-achievement going on there. Taika Waititi, whose Hunt for the Wilderpeople has just concluded its theatrical run, takes the top two spots on that list.

The second day also offers a couple of female-focused sessions, one featuring the NZFC and the other a panel of female filmmakers moderated by Kath Akuhata-Brown and including Briar Grace-Smith, recently a panel member for the Big Screen Symposium session on Waru.

Smart planning sees a solid break between the Saturday programme and the evening’s celebrations at the Gala Ball & Māori Screen Awards.

The Ngā Aho Whakaari Hui a Tau: Te Pou Ihiihi runs Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October at Waipapa Marae, Auckland University. Programme info is here. The Māori Screen Awards and Ball runs Saturday 8 at the Stamford Plaza.

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