Rising star bringing traditional stories to life through film

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Tioreore Ngātai-Melbourne from Ngāti Porou and Tūhoe is establishing herself in the film industry as a multi-talented creative.

In addition to playing a leading role in the new feature film Cousins,  Ngātai-Melbourne has produced, written, and directed her own short-film E Rangi Rā based on a true story from her own whakapapa.

“I really want to write stories from home, and we the descendants of Hinerupe grew up on this story, the history of the battle between Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou.”

E Rangi Rā is a short film about a child's love for parents after they are separated following the attack of Ngāpuhi on Te Whānau a Hinerupe during the 1800s. 

The short film is being supported through the Māoriland Film Festival rangatahi programme Ngā Pakiaka, and Ngātai-Melbourne raised over $7000 online for her project.

“The main actors are children”, says Tioreore Ngātai-Melbourne. “I wanted to portray the world of that time from their eyes. My main goal is for the audience to take a different perspective, and inspire them that these stories can be told through this medium”

She has just wrapped filming of her debut short film, after being inspired at a script-writing workshop in Tūranga Nui a Kiwa in 2019 through Ngā Aho Whakaari.

“That was what ignited my love for writing, as well as the acting. I really enjoy being in front of the camera, as well as being behind it.”

One of the directors and producers behind the film Cousins, Ainsley Gardner says, “We've been privileged enough and lucky enough to learn from and stand on the shoulders of giants like Merata Mita, so Briar Grace-Smith and I and filmmakers like us know that one of our responsibilities is to encourage rangatahi to follow in her footsteps and our footsteps.

"So for her to be doing that is really gratifying and it's a pleasing result to see that not only is she a super-talented actor, but like many of her generation she's a really talented maker across the board, a storyteller, an actor, so obviously she has great talent and we're really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.”

Taking the feature film Cousins back to her home marae is a milestone for the young actor.

“I left home when I was 18, and I did acting for three years, so it’s special to be able to take it back home as a thank you from my heart, to show the kids from home, so they can see the value, and for the kids to see that I'm just like them, and that they can believe in themselves," Ngātai-Melbourne says.

E Rangi Rā is currently in post-production. The feature film Cousins will be screened at Hinerupe Marae in Te Araroa.