'Have fun': Nan's advice to young filmmaker who won Māoriland's top rangatahi award

updated By Te Ao - Māori News
Waka Wikaire-James in his short film For My Brother.   Source / YouTube

A Tāmaki Makaurau teenager has received the top rangatahi award at the Māoriland Film Festival in Ōtaki on the Kāpiti Coast.

17-year-old Waka Wikaire-James (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Tiipa) was named Te Ihorei - E Tū Whānau Rangatahi Filmmaker of the Year at an awards presentation on Friday for his short film, For My Brother, at the festival which celebrates the next generation of Māori storytellers.

Wikaire-James, who wrote and directed the three-minute short film, travelled from his home in Auckland to Ōtaki on Thursday with dad Neil James and cousin Jasper Clay, who stars as his younger brother in the film. 

Waka Wikaire-James, with cousin Jasper Clay, dad Neil James (back row) and Māori filmmakers.  Photo / Supplied

He says the bond between brothers is special. "I've always found the bond of a brother to be unique because there is no possible way that you can escape from them. You're not exactly given the option to hang out with them. You are born with a brother," the young filmmaker explains in a behind the scenes video

WATCH For my Brother (dir. Waka Wikaire James).  Source / YouTube

Neil James, who works in film and television, said the whānau are thrilled.

"I'm so wrapped, so happy. I thought he had done a pretty good job and Waka felt he had done ok too but he's probably exceeded all our expectations. He's done really well for himself and he's got a big opportunity."

WATCH Māoriland E Tū Whānau Rangatahi Film Awards presentation.  Video / Supplied

The festival featured the premiere of 15 films made by rangatahi aged 12 to 24 at Māoriland rangatahi-led filmmaking workshops across Aotearoa, including Ōtaki, Te Tairāwhiti, Kaitaia and Tāmaki Makaurau. Wikaire-James has been to two of these workshops in Glen Innes, Auckland in recent years to help him develop his skills.

The rangatahi festival entries had to be no longer than five minutes and respond to one of sponsor E Tū Whānau’s values of aroha, whakapapa, whanaungatanga, kōrero awhi, tikanga and mana manaaki. 

"I didn't necessarily think themes would be a large part of this but it sort of just naturally happened," the Year 13 student at KIng's College said of the film, which deals with letting go of the past.

He said his grandmother gave him some helpful advice when he was making the film.

"I talked with my Nan, I found it strange that how 'have fun' was her one overarching piece of advice for her grandson. And that is what I hoped to achieve with this short film," he said.

"I had fun with it and I really enjoyed it and the people that I was working with really enjoyed it. I guess above all else, I had fun making this and what else really matters?"  

Wikaire-James was one of six young filmmakers to receive E Tū Whānau Rangatahi Film Awards:

  • Te Ihorei - E Tū Whānau Rangatahi Filmmaker of the Year. For My Brother (dir. Waka Wikaire James) (Ngāti Whātua) - Tamaki Makaurau
  • Pepa “kotikoti”, kōhatū - Best Edit. AUT Student (dir. Ngato Zharnaye Livingstone), Think Peace (Ngātihine, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Manu) - Tamaki Makaurau
  • Te Ahikā - Best Performance. Turanga Mahutonga in Late (dir. Maddy Southey)
  • Wai Ora - Best Use of Theme. Home (dir. Witana Harris-Awarau) - Kaitaia
  • Te Tino Whakaataata - Best Drama. Luckiest Man in the World (dir. Kalim Bennett Simeon) - Ōtaki
  • Pakipūmeka Mātua - Best Documentary. Te Aumangea (dir. Ngahuru Smith) - Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitāne ki Wairarapa - Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o  Wairarapa

The Māoriland Film Festival is on now and ends with the world premiere of Heiltsuk and Mohawk director Zoe Hopkin’s debut feature film Run Woman Run on Sunday, followed by the sold-out annual Māoriland Red Carpet which features a musical performance from Troy Kingi.