Filmmaker hopes her story will start conversation

By Oriwa Atkins

Filmmaker Kararaina Keeti Ngatai Melbourne and the Ngā Riwha a Tama (Tama's Scars) crew. Photo / Supplied

By Oriwa Atkins Te Rito Journalism Cadet

A young filmmaker is hoping to open up kōrero to ultimately save the lives of Māori men who are struggling with mental health issues.

Kararaina Keeti Ngatai Melbourne is taking part in the Ngā Pakiaka Incubator Programme, and her short film Ngā Riwha a Tama (Tama's Scars) is premiering at the annual Māoriland film festival in Otaki.

Helping whānau overcome issues has been a driver of Melbourne's storytelling.

"I wrote a story that was quite beautiful and close to my heart which I didn't think was something I could do and then just to be able to bring that whole idea and that whole story to life has been really special," she said.

Melbourne hopes Ngā Riwha a Tama opens up a kōrero around mental health for Māori men. Young Māori men have one of the highest suicide rates in Aotearoa.

"For Māori men, suicide is an epidemic with more than double the rates of any other group in Aotearoa," she said.

"This has intergenerational impacts as rangatahi Māori lose role models and follow them down the same path. As a Māori community, and within our whānau, we don't talk about this openly, instead, it is often brushed off and pushed aside and allowing it to continue to impact our people.

"What makes this film so special to my heart is that it is a story that's quite close to myself and my family."

The idea for her short film came from her own observations and friends and cousins she looked up to growing up in Te Araroa.

"I noticed how much we would admire our older brothers or our older cousins and that made me think about how much those people have an influence on people's lives," she said.

The story follows Tama, who admires his uncle and, in his view, is the best hunter on the East Coast. However, deep down Tama struggles to understand why his uncle starts to behave in a different and concerning way.

Ngatai Melbourne hopes the film will not only teach and help others but also help herself.

"There is at times a pattern that we are able to break and I want people to break that pattern.

"In making Ngā Riwha a Tama I want to open a kōrero for our whānau and particularly Māori boys and men. We don't need to be staunch all the time, we can be mean hunters and mean opening up about how we're doing."

Her short film will premiere at the Otaki Māoriland film festival on Thursday, June 30 at 7.30pm.

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air