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Maori Film Festival Excites Wgtn. High Students

Press Release

7th June 2005

Wairoa Maori Film Festival Excites Wellington High School Students

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Twenty-eight 7th form Wellington High Film Studies students attended the inaugural Wairoa Maori Film Festival, which took place over Queens Birthday weekend. The students, who are studying Maori Film this year, were chaperoned by their Media Studies teacher, Mark Sweeney, who won the Short Documentary (Aotearoa) award and a Festival Special Recommendation for his film Buy Bye Bi-Culture.

In January, Sweeney visited the Blue Bay Campsite at Mahia and learned it was to be the last season as the motor camp had been sold to developers. He began making the film for his students as an example of documentary making, but soon became impassioned by the emotion expressed by the campers and local Maori. Sweeney says, “The irony of this situation is that pakeha campers say they are losing their birthright, while for the local Maori community the issue is embroiled in treaty claims. The film is unashamedly emotional and biased.” During his award acceptance speech Sweeney joked that he brought his own audience to his screening by taking his students to the Festival.

The school group felt privileged to be able to stay on the Taihoa Marae and reveled in its special atmosphere and historic importance. Many of the students had little or no previous Marae experience and were guided by Murray Kanara, a whanau advisor on protocol. Kaumatua Thomas paid tribute to the students and in his speech said, “We wanted you to stay here and live the life as a community, which you have done.”

Not only did the students have the opportunity to be immersed in Maori culture, support their teachers’ film and take in a range of historical and contemporary drama and documentaries, they also were able to interview Cliff Curtis, Merata Mita, Tama Iti, and Leo Koziol, the festival organizer, for the documentary they are making on the festival itself.

The Wairoa locals and festival patrons were delighted to see the bus full of students, who enthusiastically supported screenings in the historic Gaiety theatre and a number of other venues. The town has thirty-four Marae’s including the Takitimu Marae, which screened Merata Mitas’ powerful documentary Patu.

When asked about what he thought of Wairoa, Year 13 student, Brett Peters said, “It’s the way New Zealand used to be. Its beautiful, and the people are amazing. Oh yeah and the films were great.”

The festival not only explored Maori culture, and what it is to be Maori in a modern context, but celebrated a range of indigenous film supported by the National Geographic All Roads Film Project.


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