Maoriland Film Fest 2017: Bigger and Better than ever! | Pift Pacific Islanders in Film & TV

The annual Māoriland Film Festival 2017 is filled to the brim with some of the hottest Indigenous films on the planet. The programme includes multi-award winning features, documentaries and short films, two of which are nominated for Oscars. These works will all be presented in Ōtaki as part of the 4th Māoriland Film Festival: March 15 – 19.


  • 121 Features, Shorts, Documentaries, Workshops, Kōrero and other special events over five days.
  • 8 New Zealand premieres of multi-award winning international Indigenous feature films.
  • 100 films from 15 countries and 71 Indigenous nations
  • 35 New Zealand films
  • A majority of film and videos created by Indigenous female directors (60%)

Of the award winning feature films, there are eight New Zealand premieres, consolidating Māoriland’s reputation as a film festival with an international reputation.

The opening night feature film, Bonfire (d. Dmitrii Davydov, Yakut, Russia) was a huge hit at last month’s Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale). This astonishing story of a father who must atone for an accidental crime perpetrated by his son, is played out on a bleak and intimate East Siberian canvas. It is a magnificent debut feature that will be introduced by Dmitrii himself.

The Māoriland Film Festival once again flew the flag at February’s Berlinale and the European Film Market (EFM). Māoriland is a partner in the Native Stand at the EFM alongside Sundance, imagineNATIVE and other indigenous film festivals. Māoriland festival director Libby Hakaraia and Māoriland Charitable Trust chair Tainui Stephens attended and said there was very strong interest in the Ōtaki Film Festival. “Indigenous filmmakers are very keen to screen at Māoriland as they consider it to be the most important festival in the Southern hemisphere,” said Stephens.

Other award-winning films to have their New Zealand premiere at Māoriland this year include: Angry Inuk (d. Alethea Arnaquq-Barill, Inuk, Canada), Fractured Land (d. Fiona Rather and Damien Gillis, Canada), Goldstone (d. Ivan Sen, Gamilaroi, Bigambal, Australia), Mara’akame’s Dream (d. Federico Cecchetti, Huichol, Mexico), Sámi Blood (d. Amanda Kernell, Sámi, Sweden), Sun At Midnight (d. Kirsten Carthew, p. Amos Scott, Tlicho, Canada) and Zach’s Ceremony (created by Alec Doomadgee, Waanyi, Garawa, Gangalidda, Australia).

Angry Inuk will shatter audience’s perceptions of seal hunting. Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril sheds a powerful light on anti–seal hunting campaigns – and the life-giving relevance of the hunt to the lives of the Inuit. Long a vital source of food and income for the Inuit, the seal hunt has been disrupted by high profile international campaigns fronted by celebrities, and led by well-funded animal rights organisations. The resulting bans on seal products have caused financial devastation to northern communities, creating what the filmmaker calls the ‘Inuit Great Depression’. It was released in 2016 to great critical acclaim winning the Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award at imagineNATIVE, and TIFF Canada’s Top Ten People’s Choice Award.

Armed with a law degree, Caleb Behn is emerging as one of the fiercest defenders of Dene territory against the fracking industry. In Fractured Land, we follow Behn as he confronts some of the world’s largest fracking operations. He faces the fractures within his own community and those within himself, as he struggles to reconcile traditional teachings with the law, in order to protect the land. Fractured Land won the Best British Columbian Film, and the VIFF Impact Canadian Audience Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2015.

If you enjoyed Mystery Road, you won’t want to miss Goldstone, Ivan Sen’s sun-baked surly sequel to the shoot-em-up Aussie crime film. Last month it won the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Music, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Film.

Sámi Blood directed by Sámi filmmaker Amanda Kernell is an award winning film with big attention in Europe. It follows a teenage Sámi girl in the 1930s who is forcibly removed from her family and sent to a state boarding school that intends to raise its indigenous charges to a level “acceptable” to the rest of Swedish society.

Amanda’s film has so far won the Europa Cinemas Label award, Fedeora award for Best Debut Director, the Human Values award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Best Cinematography award, and also the Dragon award for Best Nordic Film at the Goteborg International Film Festival. This award carries the largest cash prize of any film festival in the world: $150,000.

Mara’akame’s Dream won director Federico Cecchetti an OJO award for First or Second Mexican Feature Film in 2016. This film paints an evocative portrait of Mexico as it follows Niere, a young Huichol Indian caught between his traditional culture and his youthful ambitions.

Kawennáhere Jacobs first garnered widespread attention for her role in the 2013 film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls. In Sun At Midnight, Jacobs plays Lia, a 16-year-old urban princess, who is sent to spend the summer with her Gwich’in grandmother in a small Arctic community. Desperate to return to city life she steals a boat and sets out into the vast Northern wilderness only to become hopelessly lost. Jacob’s performance has been described as ‘simply jaw dropping’ and earned her a standing ovation at its screening at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto.

Filmed over ten years, Zach’s Ceremony is an extraordinary, feature-length documentary that shows one boy’s journey to manhood in a complex, emotionally driven story. His life resembles that of many urban-based Indigenous teenagers – split between a city life that competes with the cultural obligations of life ‘back home’. Zach’s Ceremony has been celebrated at festivals across Australia winning Best Film at the Byron Bay Festival, the Sydney Film Festival Audience award, and Most Popular Documentary at the Melbourne Film Festival

These premieres join 64 features, shorts and documentaries that span the Arctic, Tahiti, Canada, Hawaii, Australia, Guam and Palestine. From Aotearoa, the Māoriland Film Festival is delighted to have selected our most diverse programme of New Zealand films yet. In addition to a superb selection of shorts and feature film by Māori, the programme includes work by New Zealand based Cook Island Māori, Samoan, Solomon Islander, Fijian and Burmese filmmakers.

New Zealand films screening at the Māoriland Film Festival include Taika Waititi’s award-winning film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, the hilarious and moving Poi E: The Story of Our Song, directed by Te Arepa Kahi, and Tūhoe’s Ever The Land, a documentary on the building of Aotearoa’s first ‘living building’ Te Wharehou o Tūhoe.


The Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival

The first Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival is curated by Ngā Pakiaka – a group of award-winning young filmmakers (aged 12 – 16). They have viewed films from around the world to put together a programme for their peers. The Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival will feature the Māoriland Rangatahi Gala; with live performances and an international food festival called the Kainaval; two whānau outdoor screenings of the blockbuster and multi-award winning NZ film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople and the Oscar-nominated animation movie, Moana.

The Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival will open with the Māoriland Keynote Address by award-winning 14-year-old actor Julian Dennison (star of Hunt For The Wilderpeople) and his mother Mabelle at Rangiatea Church.

Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival Programme

Virtual Reality

Continuing a 60,000-year legacy, the Australia-based INDIGI LAB provides education, training, and opportunities for indigenous communities in science, technology and innovation. INDIGI LAB will be at Māoriland to present their work in the Virtual Reality space alongside Lanita Ririnui-Ryan, creator of Poi 360 – a digital hub for the world of poi.

Virtual Reality opens new frontiers for indigenous storytelling and can be seen in Collisions, directed by Lynette Wallworth. Collisions is a virtual reality journey to the land of indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe in the remote Western Australian Pilbara desert. The Martu lived largely untouched by Western culture until the 1960’s. Nyarri’s first contact with Western culture came in the 1950’s via a dramatic collision between his traditional world view and the cutting edge of Western science. He witnessed first hand and with no prior context, an atomic test. Visitors to Māoriland are invited to experience Collisions for themselves; from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday 18 March at the Māoriland Hub.

Hawaiian Street Artist Estria Miyashiro

Coming to Māoriland from Hawaii is Estria Miyashiro, a globally recognised street artist. In 2010, Estria co-founded ‘The Estria Foundation’, an organisation that creates art in public spaces locally and globally with artists, youth, educators and activists. Their aim is to raise awareness and inspire action to resolve human and environmental issues. His work with youth, titled Mele Murals is the subject of a documentary of the same name directed by Tadashi Nakamura and produced by Keoni Lee. Mele Murals will screen at the Māoriland Film Festival to school and public audiences. In addition, Estria will work with youth in the community throughout the week of the festival to produce a number of artworks in Ōtaki.

Bingo Shorts

For the first time at Māoriland, we combine two great forms of entertainment; Bingo (or Housie) and short films! At this not-to-be-missed event, Andre Morriseau (imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Board Member and stand up comic) will host an evening of bingo and comedic short films. Everyone is invited to bring a pen, play some bingo and have a big laugh in Māoriland’s largest cinema space, Ngā Purapura.



In 2016, Māoriland Film Festival held the first NATIVE SLAM – an international collaboration where 15 established international Indigenous filmmakers were brought together and challenged to produce 5 short films in 72 hours. The films created during this whirlwind event screened days later at the Māoriland Film Festival. They have gone on to screen at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto Canada, Winda Film Festival in Sydney Australia and Skábmagovat Film Festival in Inari Finland. These films are proof that when talent and a willingness to collaborate are combined: magic happens.

In light of the success of this project (and requests from filmmakers themselves), the NATIVE SLAM II will run from March 12 – 14th with filmmakers from Canada, Hawaii, Australia, Tahiti and Aotearoa. The results of NATIVE SLAM II will screen at Māoriland Film Festival on Saturday 18th of March at 4:30 pm at Ngā Purapura.

The Māoriland Storytelling Tent

Māoriland Film Festival is known for presenting films that provoke and inspire. This year the Storytelling Tent at 5 Rangatira Street will provide a relaxed forum for filmmakers and film fans to talk about the work and the ideas seen on screen.

Check the festival timetable for Storytelling Tent hours. The Storytellers Tent is free but limited to the first twenty people.

Māoriland Closing Night Party with Chocolate Box

To celebrate the conclusion of the 4th annual Māoriland Film Festival, Chocolate Box will perform at the popular ‘Red Carpet’ party.

Chocolate Box has spent 4 years building a reputation around Wellington and throughout Aotearoa, as a show not to be missed. They recently performed at the Wellington Waitangi Day Celebrations, Wellington Jazz Festival, Homegrown, Tora Tora Tora, and Sound Splash festivals. They were the opening entertainment for New Zealand Arts Festival 2016. Everyone is in for a night of laughter, style and a musical journey of Soul/Funk/HipHop/R&B/Jazz. Chocolate Box brings together great beats with two of New Zealand’s most popular vocalists. Tickets are $45 and will sell out!

In addition to these premieres and special events, the Māoriland Film Festival is packed full of big documentary stories that will excite and inspire. Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer will present two episodes from her new series Rise. From the Standing Rock protests to the battle for Oak Flat, these doco’s expertly investigate the ongoing environmental rights struggles faced by Native American and Indigenous peoples. They are timely documents of 500 years of native resilience in North America.
As New Zealand’s Māori Party challenges the government in support of a ‘whānau first’ approach for children in care, it is appropriate to screen We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice.

Directed by the legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice follows the historic discrimination complaint filed against the Government of Canada in 2007 by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations. In this rivetting documentary, the rights of First Nations children take centre stage as spokesperson Cindy Blackstock, argues that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves have been underfunded, and are inferior to those offered to other Canadian children.

Despite challenges from the federal government to have the case dismissed, the Canadian Human Rights Commission referred it to a full hearing by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Proceedings began in 2013. Over the course of the next three years, Blackstock and her allies tenaciously fought for what they knew was right in the face of overt and covert challenges. Obomsawin’s deft documentary lens gives us a rare and detailed glimpse into the Canadian legal system, while a remarkable story of courage, conviction and justice unfolds.

We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice screens at Māoriland Film Festival from 11 am on Saturday 18th of March at The Civic Theatre in Ōtaki. Audience members are invited to the Storytelling Tent for a post-screening kōrero.

Tickets to Māoriland Film Festival screenings are only $6. Outdoor whānau screenings are by gold coin donation.

Tickets are available from March 1 at or by calling 0508 iTICKET (484 253).

The Māoriland Film Festival along with our iwi and community welcome any who are interested in great stories, and who want to be thrilled by the art of cinema.

Welcome to Ōtaki. Nau mai koutou.

Get the programme here: