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Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s Short Film About P Debuts At NZ Festival


A short film about the devastation of methamphetamine addiction in Aotearoa, which will be the film directorial debut of acting legend Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand, will premiere at the Whānau Marama New Zealand International Film Festival in October.

The 13-minute short, called Disrupt, is a finalist for the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Short Film Competition at the prestigious festival. Disrupt delves into meth addiction told through the perspective of a kuia (grandmother) experiencing first-hand the tight grip the drug has on her moko (grandson).

Ward-Lealand says she is thrilled to be selected as a finalist for her first film as a director.

“To look at a kaupapa such is the P epidemic through the lens of one family is to see at a personal level the complexity of feelings experienced by all those affected. There is barely a small town in Aotearoa that hasn’t had its community severely impacted by the scourge of P. In Disrupt, I wanted to show the personal cost of this addiction.

As one of New Zealand’s most accomplished actors, with roles in hundreds of theatre, television and films, and winning New Zealander of the Year in 2020, Ward-Lealand rose to the challenge this year by being behind the camera for the first time.

“As an actor and theatre director, the film process itself felt very comfortable but it’s certainly been a huge learning curve seeing a film through the pre and post production period.”

Written by award winning journalist and playwright Aroha Awarau and produced by broadcaster and Māori Television news presenter Peata Melbourne, Disrupt was shot in April in central Auckland with a production team of experienced crew members and emerging Maori screen professionals.

The bilingual film, with dialogue in Māori and English, was supported by a $15,000 Aho Shorts Production Grant from Ngā Aho Whakaari, an organisation supporting Maori screen professionals. The Disrupt creative team also raised a further $20,000 from supporters on the arts crowdfunding website, Boosted and received sponsorship from Cordis Hotels and Resorts, Image Zone, Wireless Rentals, St John Ambulance and the Nāti 4 Life organisation.

Awarau has been a print and television journalist for more than a decade and says he was inspired to write Disrupt after years of covering the P epidemic and going into homes of families torn apart by the drug. He has also witnessed his own family members trying to beat their demons and overcome addiction.

“It is easily the most popular drug consumed in this country with over 1.4 million in cash spent every day. I wrote Disrupt because I wanted to bring awareness to this problem that we have here in Aotearoa.”

Melbourne, an emerging film producer who is also an experienced journalist for mainstream and Māori media, says that she aims to tell more cinematic stories with a unique indigenous lens.

“Disrupt is a film about redemption. It’s also a film that we plan to submit to international film festivals and hope people will use the film as a resource to help deal with drug addiction problems within their own families.”

The cast includes award winning actress Miriama McDowell (Head High, The Dark Horse), Joe Dekkers-Reihana (Shortland Street, Westside), Kararaina Rangihau (Waru), Ella Edward (The Changeover, The Rehearsal) and Piripi Taylor (Disney’s Moana).

Ngā Whanaunga finalists compete for three prizes, with films being screened during NZIFF 2021 in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Hawke's Bay, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Masterton, Welllington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin.

To view the trailer, visit:



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