Maoriland Film Festival

by Pauline Clague

Maoriland is held at Otaki on the Kapiti Coast in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and brings together Indigenous filmmakers and the community to celebrate Indigenous stories.

International Filmmakers outside the Civic Theatre after Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen Screening

Now in it’s sixth year, the community of Otaki came out to engage with filmmakers and their films.

The five days is full of Indigenous films from around the world, panels, youth programmes that engage the local schools in the area, Native Slam, VR and the Festival hub which this year brought carvers into the space to work alongside the festival to create a work together. Their opening night speech was a heartfelt journey of Hepi and Awatea Mita talking aboutthe experience of doing the documentary on their mother Merata Mita and the journey of discovery and healing for the story.

I have had links with Maoriland since it’s beginning, helping to create the International Collaborations model of Native Slam with Maoriland Founder Libby Hakaraia. Native Slam, is a 72 hour challenge that brings International Indigenous filmmakers together to collaborate and create a short film.

Now in it’s 4th year, Tyson Mowarin from WA as one of the participants. As a co-creator  this initiative has now hit it’s stride and meeting everyone as they came in on the start of the festival was exciting to see it grow into something that filmmakers want to be a part of each year.

This year I also moderated the talk with Themba Bhebhe, who works for the Berlinale in Diversity. Thembe has an amazing insight into sales and distribution, due to his previous work at Pathe International, we spent a couple of hours talking to the filmmakers about his insights into how to engage with sales and audience members with Indigenous cinema. His presentation showed our filmmakers in attendance how the market looks at Indigenous works and how to find audience engagement with our films. The look at the works that are coming out of Indigenous cinema in the coming year and looking at the Chiller genre being created in Indigenous cinema and how to sell that was a fun way of seeing how markets see Horror/Thriller style works.

Maoriland also showed a retrospective of the first Indigenous Drama Initiative “Sand to Celluloid” and it was an honour to represent those films and see how they still engage with audiences over 20 years later.

Highlights of the week were many, but the keynote address at the beginning of the festival by Hepi Mita and Awatea Mita left not a dry eye in the room as they talked about the journey on making the film on their mother Merata Mita. Their honesty and love for family was made all the richer when they screened the film “Merata: how mum decolonised the Screen” the next night to a full audience at the Civic Centre.

At the Maoriland Hub, a pitching session, which enabled Maori filmmakers to pitch an idea for the upcoming International collaboration between Screen Australia and NZ Film Commission. Known in Aoteroa as the Ngā Pouwhenua Initiative (various meanings: Our weapon or Our marker of ownership) and in Australia as Cook 2020: Our Right of Reply, it was a great opportunity for filmmakers to pitch ideas and hear feedback on their story ideas and the winner got a small monetary prixze to get them ready to enter into the initiative.

The Closing Night last films were the Native Slam 4 and then the closing night party commenced.

Awards were presented to filmmakers – as decided by the audiences.


Jason Taylor (Māori), Morningstar Derosier (Anishinaabe), Tyson Mowarin (Ngarluma)

Native Slam - Awa
NATIVE SLAM TEAM AWA: Jason Taylor (Māori), Morningstar Derosier (Anishinaabe), Tyson Mowarin (Ngarluma)

Fast Horse
-Directed by Alexandra Lazarowich


Merata: How Mum Decolonised the World
-Directed by Heperi Mita (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Te Rangi)


The best short drama category gave the festival organisers “quite a surprise” as four shorts tied for the people’s choice.  They were:

Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki – Directed by Justyn Ah Chong (Kanaka Maoli)

Gravedigger of Kapu – Directed by Libby Hakaraia (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kapumanawawhiti)

Hae Hawai’i – Directed by Ty Sanga (Kanaka Maoli)

My Friend Michael Jones – Directed by Ian Leaupepe and Samson Rambo (Samoa)

To find a winner they got an International filmmaker to pick the four out of a hat and My Friend Michael Jones- Directed by Ian Leaupepe and Samson Rambo (Samoa) Recieved the Award


-Directed by Pipaluk Jorgensen

There were also prizes for Red Carpet attendees in the following categories:
Best Regalia
Best Frock
Best Suit
Most Sequins
Best outfit purchased from a local Op shop (must show receipt of sale).

Wrap of the Maoriland Film Festival by Te Karere TVNZ