Expert says gang-related films must be authentic

By Jessica Tyson

Screen industry expert Hineani Melbourne says New Zealand needs authentic stories "and we need it to come from an authentic place."

She says gang-related films, for example, should only be made by people who’ve had a background with gangs.

Melbourne is the executive director of Ngā Aho Whakaari, which represents Māori working in the industry.

“We support short films made by Māori for Māori and often we get people trying to do Once We Were Warriors in short film. Unless it’s your narrative, unless you’re coming from that background, don’t try to tell it. Don’t try to tell a story that’s not your story.”

A new movie, Savage, is to be released based on the early history of gangs in Aotearoa. Melbourne says she's “not sure” about how authentic Savage is because there many Māori actors involved.

NZ On Air recently announced funding for a television series Vegas centred on a Māori gang in Rotorua.

“This particular series coming out has got a  strong authentic background and a strong Māori kaupapa. I understand 50 per cent of those working on the film need to be able to speak te reo Māori, which would have never happened before.  You would have been given a script and a voice coach to learn your lines just before they shot you.”

Despite negative comments on social media, claiming the gang narrative in Māori storytelling perpetuates stereotypes, Melbourne says the stories still need to be told.

“They are a part of our culture. I think you’d be quite amazed if you found a Māori family without gang connections at all. But really it’s about storytelling.”