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Indonesian Cinzia Jonathan has been learning the Māori language so she and her husband Mike can raise their daughter in Māori.
Her fluency is so good that she landed a part in a film predominantly in the Māori language called Muru, in theatres next month.
Filmed through the eyes of the Tūhoe community, Muru is an action-drama based on the October 2007 event known as the ‘Tūhoe Raids’ when the New Zealand police conducted anti-terrorism raids on the Tūhoe community in an event that sparked nationwide controversy.
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Jonathan was cast as Dr Foon – a foreigner living amongst the people of Tūhoe who was their community doctor.
“Dr Foon moved there from overseas and has been living in the area for a while, and over time, has picked up on the language. I was initially drawn to speak the local dialect but then realised that Foon isn't from the area, and actually picked the language up in Rotorua, so I thought, it's better if I carry on as I am,” Jonathan says.
Produced by Reikura Morgan-Kahi and directed by her husband Te Arepa, the duo describes Muru as a story that weaves the deep past and the recent present together rather than a recreation of one historic day.
The cast includes some heavy-hitters of the country’s actors including Cliff Curtis, Jay Ryan and Troy Kingi. Nevertheless, that did not dissuade Jonathan from making her acting debut in the film and all in te reo Māori no less.
“I was a bit worried about my acting skills but a lot of people have helped me out like Hori Ahipene. He really helped me to grasp my character,” she says.
Jonathan and her husband are no newbies to the industry. Mike Jonathan is the founder and owner of Haka Boy Films and has been a cameraman/director for almost three decades winning many awards, and family is what began Cinzia’s journey learning the Māori language.
“The reason I pursued te reo Māori was to fulfill my promise to my mother-in-law to learn te reo Māori. I also wanted to broaden my knowledge of the Māori culture. The best way to immerse yourself into the Māori culture is by speaking te reo Māori.”