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MTS seeks Warriors

MTS, Auckland, 13 July 2014: ONCE WERE WARRIORS turns 20 this year.

To mark the anniversary, the story behind New Zealand’s most famous film is being told in a one hour documentary to screen on Māori Television next Monday, August 18 at 9.30pm.

ONCE WERE WARRIORS – WHERE ARE THEY NOW? brings the cast and key protagonists together to tell the real story of how the movie was made, its impact, and its legacy.

The documentary is the first of Māori Television’s new season of Pakipumeka New Zealand documentaries, which will screen every Monday at 9.30pm.

Māori Television is also screening the original movie, ONCE WERE WARRIORS, on Sunday, August 17 at 9.30pm, and the sequel, WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKEN HEARTED? on Sunday August 24 at 9.30pm.

Based on the book by Alan Duff, ONCE WERE WARRIORS was a visceral and hard-hitting depiction of gang and domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and suicide amongst an urban Māori whanau.

Confrontational and controversial, it became this country’s first indigenous blockbuster, and blazed a trail for New Zealand movies worldwide.

More importantly, the film’s success gave indigenous people a cinematic voice. It also encouraged a generation of Māori filmmakers and actors both on and behind the camera to tell their stories.

So 20 years on, how has everybody fared?

ONCE WERE WARRIORS made international stars out of its lead performers Temuera Morrison, Rena Owen and Cliff Curtis, and catapulted director Lee Tamahori into Hollywood.

Some of the cast and crew have remained working in film and television while others opted out of the business.

The documentary’s director and original cast member, Julian Arahanga (he plays eldest son Nig Heke in the film), set out to track down his film family for an emotional Heke whanau reunion.

Arahanga, a television producer and director whose company Awa Films produces Māori Television series Songs From the Inside and Behind the Brush, found the experience emotional, but not without its humour as well.

“To meet up with all the cast after 20 years and see where they are at in their lives has been really quite a privilege,” he says.

“After 20 years everyone coming together was always going to be an emotional experience but the thing is it didn’t take long for the jokes to start.

“It reaffirmed for me the belief that everybody felt something special on that film.”

As well as reuniting the Heke family – Temuera Morrison (Jake Heke) , Rena Owen(Beth Heke) Mamaengaroa Pere (Grace Heke) Taungaroa Emile (Boogie Heke) Rachael Morris Tautau (Polly Heke), Joseph Kairau (Huata Heke) – other key players including Cliff Curtis and director Lee Tamahori also make an appearance.

ONCE WERE WARRIORS – WHERE ARE THEY NOW? also reunited Arahanga with the film’s producer Robin Scholes, whose production company Jump Film & TV produced the documentary.

Scholes has continued to produce film and television drama including the recent feature film Mr Pip. She and Tamahori are also joining forces again on a new film, The Patriarch, based on the Witi Ihimaera novel, Bulibasha.

ONCE WERE WARRIORS – WHERE ARE THEY NOW? screens Monday, August 18 at 9.30pm.

ONCE WERE WARRIORS screens on Sunday, August 17 at 9.30pm and WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKEN HEARTED? will air on Sunday August 24 at 9.30pm.