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Journey to the Big Screen

Journey to the Big Screen

A Porirua resident’s short film script came to life on the big screen in Wellington last week as part of the New Zealand International Film Festivals. Journey to Ihipa, written by Vicki-Anne Heikell, and directed by Nancy Brunning, tells how an old pakeha woman came to live in an isolated Maori community.

“I was interested in exploring how people get to the places they are in,” says Ms Heikell. “Younger people would think the old woman is a bit loopy but she has a story that some of the older people remember.”

Ms Heikell, 41, wrote the first draft of the film script in 2003 when she was a student on the Advanced Diploma in Creative Writing at Whitireia Polytechnic. She is a paper conservator at Te Papa and took a year off work to explore the creative possibilities of writing.

“The Diploma allowed me to dip into a whole lot of different genres. I did script writing, short stories, poetry and editing, and found I was better at writing dialogue.”

The script is based on her story, Uncle Alex’s Tangihunga, published in an anthology of short stories by Huia Publishers.

Originally from Gisborne Ms Heikell has a fascination with names and the stories behind them. Ihipa is the Maori word for Egypt.

“People were often named for places overseas after the Maori battalion. There are lots of Ihipas, Tunisias and Alameins, particularly on the East coast. Names were often changed for ease of pronunciation when people went to school, so names that could tell a whole story often got lost.”

Journey to Ihipa unfolds over the course of a few days when an old man’s body is returned and a tangihanga is held.

“There is the theatre and ceremony of what happens on a marae. But a lot of the real drama happens in the little things that go on behind the scenes, the humour and lightness as well as the things that aren’t said.”

Ms Heikell wrote nine drafts of the script and attended the shooting in Ruatahuna, in the Ureweras.

“It’s exciting to see the script on screen,” says Ms Heikell. “Characters you’ve seen only in your head come to life through the work of the actors and director.”


ENDS

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