'Cousins' film empowers wāhine Māori

By Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters

Hariata Moriarty in the New Zealand film Cousins.

A leading actor in the new film Cousins says the screenplay highlights the cruel treatment inflicted on wāhine Māori in the 1940s and 1950s.

Hariata Moriarty plays the young-adult version of the character Missy in the film and says it was a great experience working on Cousins. And although some of the subject matter was challenging, it gave her a sense of empowerment as a young Māori woman.

"He mahi mīharo, he mahi ngāhau. Ahakoa ka peka pouri wētahi wā taumaha, he mahi ngāhau."

(The work was amazing, it was enjoyable. Even though, at times it got difficult because I had to go to sad places, I still enjoyed it.)

Moriarty is in her third year at the University of Waikato, studying Law, Māori and Indigenous Studies. She says, some themes in the film draw on important issues for audiences to reflect on - because it hits uncomfortable truths about recent New Zealand history.

He tino hirahira tēnei kiriata. Ko te tuatahi, te kōrero o roto i te kirita e pā ana i te tāmitanga o ngā wāhine Māori. Ehara i te mea, kua kati tēnei tāmitanga. Heoi, kaore tātou i te tino mōhio e pā ana ki tēnei hara, e pā ana ki te tāmitanga o tō tātou kuī. Me te mea nei, kua wareware tātou tēnei kōrero.

(This film is really important. Firstly, the narrative in the film highlights the oppression Māori women have faced. It is no longer the case now, as that oppression is not seen today. But we do not really know how hard it was - the oppression our grandmothers faced. It is as though we have forgotten that history.)

Playing Missy

Keyahne Patrick Williams plays young Missy in Cousins.

 Moriarty plays Missy, one of the three lead characters in Cousins. The three characters are cousins Makareta, Missy and Mata.

She says Missy is the ahi kā of the whānau - the one who keeps the home fires burning.

"He maha ngā mea ōrite ki tōna āhua, te āhua a Missy. He wahine hātakēhi a Missy, he wahine ringa raupā - rīnga raupā, rite tonu ki a au."

(I have so many similar qualities to those of Missy. She's a funny person, and likes to use her hands for hard work - just like me).

Rachel House as older Missy in Cousins.

Moriarty says it's been encouraging to work with so many powerful Māori women on the film.

"This project is really important for creating more space for indigenous filmmakers. And specifically indigenous women filmmakers."