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Festival of Maori Film Planned for Wairoa

Festival of Maori Film Planned for Wairoa

Wairoa Aotearoa New Zealand (June 14 2004): A Wairoa group is planning to stage New Zealand's first official Maori film festival next year. The festival, scheduled to coincide with the Matariki celebrations in June 2005, could include anything from old silent movies to the latest blockbuster from Maori director Lee Tamahori.

Organiser Leo Koziol, of the Rautaki Group, believes the festival would contribute to a cultural, social and economic renaissance for the northern Hawke's Bay town. "The goal is to make this annual event the 'Maori Sundance' that transforms the small town of Wairoa into a centre of Maori cultural creativity on the 21st century," Mr Koziol said.

Patrons for the project include director Roger Donaldson, actor Don Selwyn, writer Witi Ihimaera, entertainer Mika, Wairoa Mayor Les Probert, Dame Georgina Kirby, Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey, and Barry Everard, who chairs the New Zealand Film Commission. Partners in the film festival concept includes flaxroots hapu-based group Mana Wahine and the Wairoa Community Cooperative Society, which operates the local Gaiety Theatre on a nonprofit basis.

The festival will be staged at the Gaiety Theatre, which has been thoroughly refurbished in recent years, and features one of the biggest screens in New Zealand. Wairoa was a suitable place to stage the festival because the district had the highest proportion of Maori in New Zealand at 59 per cent, Mr Koziol said.

For the inaugural festival next year, the theme would be Mana Wairoa: The World Through a Maori Lens. "The initial focus is to get the festival up and running with the minimum of resources and minimum of barriers," Mr Koziol said. "Therefore the films selected will be eclectic and the definition of 'Maori film' will be broad and varied."

His suggestions included Ngati, Once Were Warriors, The Piano, because it included Maori characters, the Star Wars film with Maori actor Temuera Morrison, and Die Another Day. "The third and final Star Wars film should be out by that time, which also stars Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes."

The festival could also include low-budget films, short films and documentaries, Mr Koziol said. "It is hoped to screen a restored version of silent film 'Te Kooti's Trail', with the original live piano soundtrack." He hopes for help from the New Zealand Film Commission, the Maori Television Service, Te Mangai Paho, Creative New Zealand, Television New Zealand and TV3.

Mr Koziol also hopes to set up an organisation to be called Film Wairoa, which would include a small digital film unit and would try to attract film-makers to the district.

TO CONTACT THE RAUTAKI GROUP: Leo Koziol, Postal Agency Nuhaka 4192 Wairoa District * oshie@xtra.co.nz

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