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World premiere of Voices of the Land in Wellington

World premiere of Voices of the Land – Richard Nunns documentary – in Wellington


A cinematic documentary about Richard Nunns, a world-renowned performer of taonga pūoro, traditional Māori instruments, will premiere at Wellington’s New Zealand International Film Festival this month.

Nga Reo O Te Whenua – Voices of the Land’, directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker and Victoria University of Wellington film lecturer Dr Paul Wolffram, will have its first public screening on 26 July.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to screen this film throughout the country for a home audience after three years of production,” says Dr Wolffram. “I think this is a film that will resonate widely with New Zealand audiences as a story about who we are and how we think about the land we live in and the way it speaks to us.”


The film documents Nunn’s journey as he reflects on his more than 30 years working and learning from Māori communities and coming to understand the unique instrumentation of taonga pūoro. It also explores his current struggle with Parkinson's disease which threatens his ability to continue performing. The film accompanies Nunns and Māori musician and composer Horomona Horo as they perform in a series of South Island wilderness settings.

“We travelled throughout the South Island from Takaka to Fiordland with more than 15 locations in between. The film enables an audience to see and hear the ways in which the landscape can be understood as having a voice and even its own music.”

Dr Wolffram first met Nunns when the filmmaker was an undergraduate studying ethnomusicology at Victoria University’s music school. “His example of seeking to understand the music and culture of other communities in depth through long-term engagement was one of the inspirations to pursue my doctorate on the music and dance of an isolated community in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea,” says Dr Wolffram.

Nunns will be attending the Wellington premiere, where he will see the final cut of the documentary for the first time. After two Wellington screenings, the film will travel around the country with the film festival and go on to screen overseas.

Nga Reo O Te Whenua – Voices of the Land’ was supported by Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand Film Commission. It is edited by Annie Collins with cinematography by Alun Bollinger and sound by Tim Prebble.

In 2012 Dr Wolffram received the Jean Rouch prize from the Society for Visual Anthropology in San Francisco for Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales, his feature-length documentary about the Lak people of Papua New Guinea.

The Wellington screenings are at Soundings Theatre at Te Papa on Saturday 26 July, 3pm and Tuesday 29 July at 1.30pm.

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