First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition

If you haven’t yet heard about this awesome series going on in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, you’re missing out!  First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition, is a series of screenings celebrating the work of indigenous, aboriginal and First Nations filmmakers from four countries.

Included in this series is not only one of my favorite films, Eagle vs. Shark, by New Zealand Maori filmmaker Taika Waititi (Boy), starring Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) and the amazing Loren Horsley (see photo below), but also includes four films by the late Maori woman filmmaker, Merata Mita, and “Choke” by Metis filmmaker and actress Michelle Latimer who did an interview with Her Film in the spring of 2011.  You can read a lovely tribute to Merata Mita by Marian Evans on her blog, Wellywood Woman.

This is the “largest first peoples film series ever seen in North America.”  It kicked off on June 21 and runs until August 11, 2012.

One of my favorite actors, Academy Award-nominated Graham Greene, gave a talk on June 25 about his career in film, television and theatre.  There will be a lot of screenings, including a sidebar retrospective series called “First Peoples: Reclaimed Visions,” with screenings introduced by such cinematic luminaries as Graham Greene and filmmaker Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals, Skins, The American Experience: We Shall Remain, Hide Away). 

The program spans Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and “presents an unprecedented survey of the work of First Peoples filmmakers.”


The film program includes Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (introduced by Alanis Obomsawin, honored recently by the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto), Smoke Signals introduced by Chris Eyre, Patu! introduced by Heperi Mita (son of the late Merata Mita), Bran Nue Dae by Rachel Perkins, The Orator by Tusi Tamasese (first feature ever made in the Samoan language), Mohawk Girls by Tracey Deer, and many more, including several shorts programs.

For complete information, visit the Toronto International Film Festival’s website at If you attend any screenings in this series, please leave a comment letting me know what you saw and what you thought of it!

Understanding Merata…

As you may know, the filmmaker Merata Mita, passed away at the end of May in Auckland, New Zealand.  Earlier this month I posted a number of links to more information about her — I read all the pages in an attempt to understand exactly who she was as a filmmaker (insofar as you can by simply reading about her) and what she meant to so many people.  It’s joyously evident by the outpouring of tributes, announcements and videos posted about Mita’s work that she was greatly admired, loved, respected and recognized as a vital part of not only Maori film, but also women’s film and the New Zealand and global film industry.  Merata Mita was a New Zealand Maori woman filmmaker and her work reflected her identity.

Writer and filmmaker, Marian Evans, of Wellywoodwoman (of which Her Film is a sister blog), wrote a piece with writer and curator, Cushla Parekowhai, on Merata Mita last week which delves into not only her long-time passion of turning New Zealand author Patricia Grace’s novel Cousins into a feature film, but also her stunningly long list of accomplishments and involvement in film and her philosophy about Maori film and its place within New Zealand and world cinema.

Her Film, as I’ve written before, is meant to be a place for, about and by aspirant, working and experienced women filmmakers to share and reflect on their experiences in making films.  Marian Evans and Cushla Parekowhai’s piece, Duet for Merata Mita 1942-2010, accomplishes that beautifully in this excerpt, albeit more about Mita’s family’s experiences:

Merata was fearless. I read this week that she once said  “Swimming against the tide becomes an exhilarating experience. It makes you strong. I am completely without fear now”. And she needed to be. In Rangatira: Making Waves—a documentary that Hinewehi Mohi made about and with Merata in 1998—one of Merata’s children talks about the cost of her work to their family; it kept them in poverty and caused frequent separations. Another tells how they were unsafe at home because of her filmmaking. The family lived with verbal abuse, state surveillance, and death threats while Merata made Patu! about New Zealand’s civil unrest during the 1981 Springbok rugby Tour, the culmination of many years’ protest about sporting contact with South Africa, then living under apartheid rule.

(excerpted from Duet for Merata Mita 1942-2010 on Wellywoodwoman)

I’m woefully inadequate to speak much on Merata Mita when I’ve not been able to see her work as I would have liked.  I haven’t carved out the time in my day to google and buy her work, though on the NZ On Screen site you can watch her film Patu! I’m blocking off time this weekend to watch it in its entirety.  Suffice it to say, that even in this day and age of instant viewing and DVD by mail services, Mita’s work is not ubiquitously available.  I can only hope the situation in New Zealand is different!  But I can only speak as a reader of Marian & Cushla’s piece, and I am inspired and in a sense, empowered, as an aspiring filmmaker, film researcher and film-lover, by Merata Mita’s bold vision, sustained passion and uncompromising work.  To that point, I’ll leave you with another brief excerpt from Marian & Cushla’s Duet for Merata Mita 1942-2010 which I HIGHLY recommend reading.  Two informative and inspiring videos (one in Hawai’ian and one in Maori) can be found toward the end of their tribute, well worth a watch!

A Broadsheet review criticized Patu! which Merata made to communicate  with “PEOPLE rather than to reach factions…I don’t like…a kind of ghetto thing where you forget that you’re part of the broader family of humanity

(excerpted from Duet for Merata Mita 1942-2010 on Wellywoodwoman)

Note: I have taken the liberty to link certain words and topics in the excerpts.


Many thanks to Marian Evans for being willing to have Her Film be a sister blog to Wellywoodwoman!

Merata Mita

I’d be remiss if I didn’t post something about the late filmmaker, Merata Mita, a true pioneer, a force within the New Zealand film industry and the second Maori woman to direct a feature.  She died on May 31, 2010, in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mita was co-producer of the recently released film, Boy (Taika Waititi, dir.), the highest-grossing New Zealand film to date.  It played at Sundance 2010.

Biography by NZ On Screen

Patu! (documentary by Merata Mita – watch online)


One filmmaker’s homage on Horiwood

Tributes in the NZ Herald

Tribute on Ophelia Thinks Hard – Maori News & Indigenous Views