Political past seals Ihimaera's writing career

By Harata Brown

With the wrap up of the film premiere in Witi Ihimaera's hometown, the author of the original novel says he would be lying if the film wasn't autobiographical.

The scene, as Ihimaera explains, is an account of a particular moment that changed his life.

“Just remember, no Maoree is to be spoken in the Court room” – Judge in Movie Mahana.

“If no one can speak Māori here, how can we Māori possibly defend ourselves?” – Lead actor in Movie Mahana.

According to Mahana author Witi Ihimaera it was a life changing moment, “From that point onwards, my political path as a Māori writer was forever sealed.”

Ihimaera published his first short series Pounamu, Pounamu in 1972. Since then, Ihimaera has gone on to write novels about the clash of Māori and English values in Aotearoa, NZ.

Producer Robin Scholes shared her ideas with Ihimaera about the film, “I went to meet with Witi and I said to him my dream team, if it were possible would be to have John Collier Write the screen play, and Lee Tamahori Direct the film.

Screen play writer John Collier said, “It's full of the kind of detail that you can't make up. It is a very complex, multi character meandering tale, so my job was really to take this and simplify it.”

Ihimaera's experiences are also portrayed in the mannerisms of Mahana's characters.

“There are some things that I am really proud to see. Like Nancy for instance would always go like this to our noses. And that was trying to make our noses really look beautiful and short, well it didn't happen in my case,” says Ihimaera.