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Māoriland Film Festival Announces 2017 Programme

Māoriland Film Festival 2017 is filled to the brim with some of the hottest Indigenous films on the planet. The programme includes multi-award winning features, documentary and short films including two Oscar-nominated films! These works will all be presented in Ōtaki as part of the 4th annual Festival, March 15 - 19, 2017.


• 121 Features, Shorts, Documentaries, Workshops, Kōrero and other special events over 5 days.
• 8 New Zealand premieres of multi-award winning international Indigenous feature films.
• 100 films from 15 countries and 71 Indigenous nations
• 35 New Zealand films
• A majority of film + videos created by Indigenous female directors (60%)

Of the award winning feature films, there are eight New Zealand premieres, consolidating Māoriland’s reputation as an international film festival.

The opening night feature film, Bonfire (d. Dmitrii Davydov, Yakut, Russia) was a huge hit at last month’s Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) where Māoriland Film Festival once again flew the flag at the European Film Market (EFM) part of the Berlinale. A partner in the Native Stand at the EFM alongside Sundance, imagineNATIVE and other Indigenous film festivals. Māoriland festival director Libby Hakaraia and chair of the Māoriland Charitable Trust Tainui Stephens attended the Berlinale and said there was very strong interest in Māoriland Film Festival. “Indigenous filmmakers are very keen to screen at Māoriland as they consider it now to be “the” festival to attend in the Southern hemisphere,” said Tainui Stephens.

Other award-winning films to have their New Zealand premiere at Māoriland this year include; Angry Inuk (d. Alethea Arnaquq-Barill, Inuk, Canada), Fractured Land (d. Fiona Rather and Damien Gillis, Canada), Goldstone (d. Ivan Sen, Gamilaroi, Bigambal, Australia), Mara’akame’s Dream (d. Federico Cecchetti, Huichol, Mexico), Sámi Blood (d. Amanda Kernell, Sámi, Sweden), Sun At Midnight (d. Kirsten Carthew, p. Amos Scott, Tlicho, Canada) and Zach’s Ceremony (created by Alec Doomadgee, Waanyi, Garawa, Gangalidda, Australia).

Angry Inuk will shatter audience’s perceptions of seal hunting as director, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril sheds a powerful light on anti–seal hunting campaigns and the relevance of the hunt to the lives of the Inuit. Long a vital source of food and income for the Inuit, the seal hunt has been disrupted by high profile, international campaigns fronted by celebrities and led by well-funded animal rights organisations. The ensuing bans on seal products have caused financial devastation to northern communities, creating what the filmmaker calls the Inuit Great Depression. It was released in 2016 to great critical acclaim winning the Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award at imagineNATIVE, and TIFF Canada’s Top Ten People’s Choice Award.

Armed with a law degree, Caleb Behn is emerging as one of the fiercest defenders of Dene territory against the fracking industry. In Fractured Land, Behn is followed as he confronts some of the world’s largest fracking operations, the fractures within his own community and himself as he struggles to reconcile traditional teachings with the law to protect the land. Directed by Fiona Rather and Damien Gillis, Fractured Land won the Best Best British Columbian Film and VIFF Impact Canadian Audience Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2015.

If you enjoyed Mystery Road, you won’t want to miss Goldstone, Ivan Sen’s sequel to the shoot-em-up Aussie crime film. Last month it won the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Music, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Film.

Sámi Blood directed by Sámi filmmaker Amanda Kernell is one of the hottest films in Europe this awards season. It has so far won the Europa Cinemas Label Award, Fedeora Award for Best Debut Director, the Human Values Award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Best Cinematography Award at the Goteborg International Film Festival and the Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film at the Goteborg International Film Festival. This prize carries the largest cash prize of any festival in the world – a whopping $150,000.

Sámi Blood follows a teenage Sámi girl in the 1930s who is forcibly removed from her family and sent to a state boarding school that is intended to raise its Indigenous charges to a level “acceptable” to the rest of Swedish society.

Mara’akame’s Dream won director Federico Cecchetti an OJO for First or Second Mexican Feature Film in 2016. This film paints an evocative portrait of Mexico as it follows Niere, a young Huichol Indian caught between his traditional culture and his youthful ambitions.

Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs first garnered widespread attention for her role in the 2013 film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls. In Sun At Midnight, Jacobs plays Lia, a 16-year-old urban princess, who is sent to spend the summer with her Gwich’in grandmother in a small arctic community. Desperate to return to city life she steals a boat and sets out into the vast Northern wilderness only to become hopelessly lost. Jacob’s performance has been described as ‘simply jaw dropping’ earning a standing ovation at its screening at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto and an award for Best Performance in a Canadian Film at the Whistler Film Festival.

Filmed over ten years, Zach’s Ceremony is an extraordinary, feature-length documentary that shows one boy’s journey to manhood in a complex, emotionally driven story. His life resembles that of many urban based Indigenous teenagers - split between the two worlds of city life versus the cultural obligations of life ‘back home’. Zach’s Ceremony has been celebrated at festivals across Australia winning Best Film at the Byron Bay Festival, the Sydney Film Festival Audience Award and Most Popular Documentary at the Melbourne Film Festival

These premieres join 64 features, shorts and documentaries that span the Arctic, Tahiti, Canada, Hawaii, Australia, Guam and Palestine and more.

From Aotearoa, the Māoriland Film Festival is delighted to have selected our most diverse programme of New Zealand made films yet. In addition to a superb selection of films by Māori filmmakers, the programme includes films by New Zealand based Cook Island Māori, Samoan, Solomon Islander, Fijian and Burmese filmmakers.

New Zealand films screening at the Māoriland Film Festival include Taika Waititi’s award-winning film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, the hilarious and moving Poi E: The Story of Our Song, directed by Te Arepa Kahi, Tūhoe’s Ever The Land, a documentary on the building of Aotearoa’s first ‘living building’ Te Wharehou o Tūhoe, alongside an exhibition of Māori experimental art films and a number of excellent short films.

Special events at this years Māoriland Film Festival include;

The Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival

The first Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival is curated by Ngā Pakiaka - a group of award-winning young filmmakers (aged 12 - 16) who have watched films from around the world to put together a programme of films for their peers. The Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival will feature the Māoriland Rangatahi Gala; with live performances and an international food festival called the Kainaval, two whānau outdoor screenings of the blockbuster and multi-award winning NZ film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople and the Oscar-nominated animation movie, Moana.

The Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival will open with the Māoriland Keynote Address by award-winning 14-year-old actor Julian Dennison (star of Hunt For The Wilderpeople) and his mother Mabelle at Rangiatea Church.

Virtual Reality

Continuing a 60,000 year legacy of Indigenous science and innovation, Australia-based INDIGI LAB work to provide education, training, and opportunities for Indigenous communities in science, technology and innovation. INDIGI LAB will be at Māoriland to present a kōrero on their work in the Virtual Reality space alongside Lanita Ririnui-Ryan, creator of Poi 360 - a digital hub for the world of poi.

Virtual Reality opens new frontiers for Indigenous storytelling - as can be seen in the work Collisions, directed by Lynette Wallworth. Collisions is a virtual reality journey to the land of Indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe in the remote Western Australian Pilbara desert. The Martu lived largely untouched by Western culture until the 1960’s. Nyarri’s first contact with Western culture came in the 1950’s via a dramatic collision between his traditional world view and the cutting edge of Western science and technology, when he witnessed first hand and with no context, an atomic test. Visitors to Māoriland are invited to experience Collisions for themselves, first hand from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday 18 March at the Māoriland Hub.

Hawaiian Street Artist Estria Miyashiro

Coming to Māoriland from Hawaii is Estria Miyashiro, a globally recognised street artist. In 2010, Estria co-founded ‘The Estria Foundation’, an organisation that creates art in public spaces locally and globally with artists, youth, educators and activists in order to raise awareness and inspire action in the movement to resolve human and environmental issues. His work with youth, titled Mele Murals is the subject of a documentary of the same name directed by Tadashi Nakamura and produced by Keoni Lee. Mele Murals will screen at the Māoriland Film Festival to school and public audiences. In addition, Estria will work with youth in the community throughout the week of the festival to produce a number of artworks here in Ōtaki.

Bingo Shorts

For the first time at Māoriland we are combining two great forms of entertainment; Bingo (or Housie) and short films! At this not to be missed event, Andre Morriseau (imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Board Member and Stand Up Comic) will host an evening of bingo and comedic short films. Audience members are invited to bring a pen, play some bingo and have a big laugh in Māoriland’s largest cinema space, Ngā Purapura.


In 2016, Māoriland Film Festival held the first NATIVE Slam - an international collaboration challenge where 15 established international Indigenous filmmakers were brought together and challenged to produce 5 short films in 72 hours. The films created during this whirlwind event screened at the Māoriland Film Festival in 2016 and have gone on to screen at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto Canada, Winda Film Festival in Sydney Australia and Skábmagovat Film Festival in Inari Finland. These films are proof that when talent and a willingness to collaborate are combined, magic happens.

In light of the success of this project (and a few requests from filmmakers), the NATIVE Slam II will run from March 12 - 14th with filmmakers from Canada, Hawaii, Australia, Aotearoa and more. The films from the NATIVE Slam II will screen at Māoriland Film Festival on Saturday 18th of March at 4:30 pm at Ngā Purapura.

The Māoriland Storytelling Tent

Māoriland Film Festival is known for presenting films that provoke and inspire. This year the Storytelling Tent at 5 Rangatira Street will provide a relaxed forum for filmmakers and audience members to talk about the films screened and ideas broached at this year's festival. Check the festival timetable for Storytelling Tent hours.
The Storytellers Tent is free but limited to the first twenty people.

Māoriland Closing Night Party with Chocolate Box

To celebrate the conclusion of the 4th annual Māoriland Film Festival, Chocolate Box will perform at the much loved ‘Red Carpet’ party.

Chocolate Box has spent 4 years building a reputation around Wellington and throughout Aotearoa, as a show not to be missed. These ladies have recently performed at Wellington Waitangi Day Celebrations, Wellington Jazz Festival, Homegrown, Tora Tora Tora, Sound Splash Festivals and were the opening entertainment for New Zealand Arts Festival 2016. With the combination of these ladies, you will be in for a night of laughter, style and a musical journey of Soul/Funk/HipHop/R&B/Jazz. Chocolate Box brings together great beats with the live element of two of New Zealand’s most popular vocalists. Tickets are $45 and will sell out!

In addition to these premieres and special events, the Māoriland Film Festival is packed full of big stories that will excite and inspire. From Canada, Michelle Latimer is travelling to Māoriland to present two episodes from her new series Rise, produced for Viceland. From the Standing Rock protests to the battle for Oak Flat, Rise expertly investigates the ongoing environmental rights struggles that continue to be faced by Native American and Indigenous peoples. It is an essential and timely documentation of 500 years of native resilience in North America. Latimer will present episodes Sacred Water and Red Power - filmed at Standing Rock during the early days of the North Dakota Access Pipeline protest in 2016.

As New Zealand’s Māori Party threaten to leave the government in support of a whānau first approach for children in care, it seems timely to be screening We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice.

Directed the legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice follows the historic discrimination complaint filed against the Government of Canada in 2007 by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations. In this documentary, the rights of First Nations children take centre stage as it follows Cindy Blackstock, the head of the Caring Society, as she argues that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves have been underfunded and inferior to those offered to other Canadian children.

Despite challenges from the federal government to have the case dismissed, the Canadian Human Rights Commission referred it to a full hearing by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which began proceedings in 2013. Over the course of the next three years, Blackstock and her allies tenaciously fought for what they knew was right in the face of overt – and covert – challenges. Obomsawin’s deft documentary lens gives us a rare and detailed glimpse into the Canadian legal system as a remarkable story of courage, conviction and justice unfolds.

We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice screens at Māoriland Film Festival from 11 am on Saturday 18th of March at The Civic Theatre in Ōtaki. Audience members are invited to the Storytelling Tent for a post-screening kōrero.

Tickets to Māoriland Film Festival screenings are only $6. Outdoor whānau screenings are by gold coin donation.

Tickets are available from March 1 at or by calling 0508 iTICKET (484 253)

Updated on 17th March 2017