Film documenting Māori stone carver wins at film festival

By Jessica Tyson

Filmmaker Keelan Walker has taken home two awards at the Top of the South Film Festival, winning Best Documentary and People's Choice for his short documentary The Pakohe Trails.

The film follows stone carver and traditional Māori artist Lewis Smith as he journeys along the ancient trails once used by his tūpuna to collect pakohe, also known as the rock argillite.

“Lewis is of Kurahaupō decent, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō and Ngāi Tahu as well," Walker says.

“I wanted to examine what he does. He’s got a great story. He also takes his whānau out along these pakohe trails and collects his pakohe so he’s also passing these stories down to them too.”

Walker was inspired to start documenting stories of his people after attending a wānanga earlier this year. A prominent Māori speaker stood to speak and Walker didn’t agree with part of what he said.

“It was to do with Kurahaupō people from this area being exterminated, wiped out and I thought, well if that was true, there’s so many of us still living here in the reflection of our tūpuna in many different ways, whether that’s practising some of the arts that were handed down, whakapapa. We’re all still here,"  Walker says.

“So I decided to tell a series of stories about our people still living here positively in the area and so this is the first of those stories.”

Highlights of the documentary

The 15-minute documentary includes footage of Lewis walking the trails to find pakohe, bringing it home, and carving it in his workshop. Some parts of the documentary also alternate between present and modern-day.

“We do some reenactments of our tūpuna travelling these trails maybe 500 years ago.”

Walker’s favourite shots in the film are the aerial shots.

“People love to see the landscape, Māori and Pākeha. We’re all proud of this area. We’re all proud of where we come from so I love showing landscapes but also flitting in between the present and modern-day.”

He says he’s proud to be able to share the stories.

“I’m able to tell the stories of my people, the immediate people around me, my whānau, my iwi, so definitely very proud that people are pleased to be watching these stories," he says.

“It was certainly a fun project. I haven’t done anything like this before and I’m looking forward to doing the next one, which is about my aunty, Marg Bond, and her weaving.”

Walker says The Pakohe Trails will be launched live on Facebook at 6pm on Friday.