Leading filmmakers recognised at Māoriland Film Festival

By Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters

Critically acclaimed movie production designer Ra Vincent (Te Atiawa) led a parade of awards by the New Zealand Film Commission at the opening evening of the 2021 Māoriland Film Festival.

The Ōtaki film festival is home to the largest indigenous film festival in the southern hemisphere. And featured this year's Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence awards were presented at a special on Wednesday evening.

The awards were presented to Vincent, first assistant director Puti Puti Rā Simich-Pene (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hāua, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto) and film director and producer Julian Arahanga (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Raukawa).

Vincent will receive $50,000 and is celebrated for being nominated for an Oscar in 2013 for his production design work on The Hobbit and has worked with Taika Waititi to bring to life iconic stories such as Jojo Rabbit and What We Do In the Shadows.

Simich-Pene will receive $10,000 and her recent credits include working as first assistant director on Power Rangers, 800 Words and the Brokenwood Mysteries

Arahanga will also receive $10,000 for his dedication to the film industry for the past 30 years. He has worked on a range of productions with some of the world’s most influential filmmakers including Lee Tamahori, Gregor Nicholas and the Wachowskis.

Multi award-winning actor Rena Owen (Ngāti Hine/Ngāpuhi) / sourced. Māoriland Film Festival.

Keynote address

The opening evening also included a personal and historical keynote address from internationally revered actor Rena Owen at Rangiātea Church.

Owen is a prominent figure in the Aotearoa film industry and is best known for her role as Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors. She is also one of only a handful of actors to have worked with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Her latest acting role includes playing revered Māori and women’s rights activist Dame Whina Cooper, in the upcoming feature film Whina.

Films celebrated

Whiti, a film in this year's Aotearoa Shorts at Māoriland Film Festival.

Nine short film events will take centre stage at the festival and all connect to themes of importance in te ao Māori. They include Wairua Shorts, Whānau Shorts, Aotearoa Shorts, Whenua Shorts, Whakapapa Shorts, Rangatahi Shorts, Haumaru Shorts, Bingo Shorts and Wai Shorts. 

The festival will also celebrate the E Tū Whānau Awards on Friday, which acknowledges a selection of rangatahi aged 14-24 who challenged each other in making films no longer than five minutes.

The films will premiere and then prizes will be awarded to best film, best director, best actor and many more.

The festival will then wrap with a red carpet event headlined by actor and singer-songwriter Troy Kingi.

To find out more, click here.