Filmmaker wins funding to create his first feature film

By Jessica Tyson

For filmmaker and actor Isaac Te Reina, sharing Māori stories is his calling and he's been honoured for his mahi after receiving $2500 from Māoriland to go toward his next project.

Te Reina, of Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, specialises in directing, writing and producing and is one of four recipients of the Māoriland pitch grant at the Māoriland Film Festival.

“Sharing Māori stories is something deep within my heart. It’s been there ever since I can remember,” he says.

He says winning the award "means the world".

"I’m very much a product of the good wairua inside of Māoriland. I was there eight years ago at the inaugural film festival, the inception of it all and managed to win an emerging director's award back then," he says.

“So to come full circle a few years later and win this award affirms to me that I’m on the right path with what I’m doing in my career and for our people out there, in terms of digital storytelling and the power we have these days in speaking new truths and sharing our mātauranga Māori for the rest of the world to understand and learn off of.”


Te Reina has written the first draft of a romantic thriller film Taonga, which he is developing to be his first feature film with the intention to partner with a creative producer and get the script to an award-winning level.

He says the film is about a piece of pounamu linking two rangatahi together.

“Their tūpuna had put them on this path of discovering … about why they’re here, why they have this aroha for each other and it is about these two lovers going on this path of enlightenment to decolonise their own minds," he says.

“It’s very much a colonisation piece with how the Anglican and Catholic Church have affected our taha wairua so it’s working with the times that we are in now and continuing to decolonise ourselves and work with or taha Māori and our ancestors and our people around us to heal us and put us on the right path.”


Te Reina travelled with his first short film, Entropy to LA, which was accepted into the Pasadena International Film Festival when he was only 18.

Since then, he has written, produced and directed a number of short films and documentaries alongside a tight network of Wellington-based artists and film professionals. He has acted in a few successful plays: Vernon God Little and Te Waka Huia and in the most recent Maori Television series, Ahikaroa as a support lead.

Te Reina is passionate about breathing life into the stories of Māori in both educational and fictional manners. As an artist, he says he prides himself on developing works in collaboration with the voices of local musicians, writers and performers.

“I’ve kind of swayed here and there with my path of what is best for me to do in this world, to do with my voice and my passions but I always come back to filmmaking because the power as visual storytellers can influence many people beyond our shores and that’s what excites me about influencing the minds of other young people and our people out in the world.”

The full list of winners of Māoriland Pitch Award Recipients  

- Erroll Anderson - Solid

- Isaac Te Reina - Taonga

- Ngamako Rota - Rangiriri - A Tale of Triumph

- Wesley Taplin - Reremoana