Whina writer 'in awe' of 'the mother of the nation'

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The highly-anticipated biopic film about wahine Māori pioneer Dame Whina Cooper, named Whina, has opened in cinemas across Aotearoa.

Three actresses play ‘The Mother Of The Nation’ across three times of her life: Rena Owen, Miriama McDowell and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne. Other cast members include James Rolleston, Vinnie Bennett and Jayden Daniels.

Co-director and writer Paula Whetu Jones found some time in her busy schedule to talk to teaomāori.news, after returning from the film’s premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, which she says was received “very well” by audiences.  

“Of course loads and loads of Kiwis came, and it was really good to see how emotional people were.

“We had Q&A’s after each screening and surprisingly the men got up and talked, they were very emotional about the film.”

Though Jones says she was “ashamed” to not know very much about Dame Whina Cooper before filming began, through research and reaching out to Cooper’s whānau, she says she was amazed the more she delved deeper into her story.

“All I knew was of the land march, and even then I didn’t know much about that. I was really young when it happened.

“Right from the beginning, from birth, she was fighting against the odds and winning."