Our 2021 Film Festival differed from all previous years. Thanks to Covid we had no visitors from overseas. One of the benefits of no international guests was the chance to concentrate on the work and the dreams of local Māori and Pasifika filmmakers.

The Māori term for visitors from afar is manuwhiri tūārangi. And despite our locked down planet, we were still able to welcome guests from afar – within NZ and from overseas.

Technology-enabled a number of filmmakers to zoom in with their contributions. They were still able to speak about their film with the Māoriland audiences, wherever in the world they happened to be. One especially powerful Native Minds session was the screening of the Saami film NJUOKCVAT (The Tongues). 

This graphic story of sexual violence in the frozen tundra of the Arctic Circle was a sad yet inspiring film. The two sisters who wrote, directed, and acted are Saami filmmakers living in Norway. Their video message to Māoriland spoke of the responsibility they feel to tell stories of the trauma of their people. Marja and Ingir Bal are grateful that they have the support of their elders and community to tell the stories that need to be told. Their next film will address LGBTQ issues in Sapmi. It is to be called “I LOVE MY REINDEER HERDER.”

Many visitors from afar within Aotearoa made it to Māoriland. One was Otago University historian and author Annabel Cooper. She had wanted to come to the festival for years. One of her film highlights was DAWN RAID, the popular winner of the Best Doco award. In her words:

“Oh wow, what a treat. The story of the up-and-down fortunes of the Pasifika music label as told by its super-charming and entertaining creators. So many insights into the times as well as the label itself. The screening of Dawn Raid was followed by a warm and informative Q&A with director Oscar Kightley – another big crowd-pleaser. Arohanui Māoriland! See you next year!”

Some surprise guests from afar also turned up because of on-the-spot decisions to be at Māoriland. One was Māori Party MP co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer. She and hubby Neil turned up for a jack nohi, and stayed. They both loved the kaupapa of it all. The proud parliamentarian presented the annual Māoriland Film Awards at the packed and happy Red Carpet Party. Debbie also had a fabulous time purchasing lovely things from our Toi Matarau Art Gallery.

Another surprise guest who turned up on a whim was Tama Waipara, musician and director of the prestigious Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. He and festival manager Edwina Ashwell had a wonderful time soaking up the films and the kōrero. They returned to Gisborne excited, and with new ideas for their own festival. But before they left Tama made a passing comment which really addressed one of the key values of our Māoriland kaupapa. He said, “Wherever you go and whatever you do, take your tea towel with you.”

The screen-storytelling industry depends on practitioners of film or the digital space to be proud of whatever role we happen to play. Despite the high profile we sometimes achieve and the natural sense of pride that comes with any achievement, we are still whānau.

There are always times when we have to pull our heads in, and do the dishes. Ko te iti ko te rahi. Ko tātou katoa tēnei. Me aroha, me manaaki. Heoi.

-Tainui Stephens

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