5 film highlights in the Māoriland Film Festival 2024 schedule

We dive into this year’s Māoriland Film Festival schedule and handpick five titles we’re excited for.

Māoriland Film Festival returns to Ōtaki once again with a schedule filled with Indigenous films from across the world. Taking place March 20-24, the schedule includes feature films, short film collections, events, and much more (see for yourself).

This year’s theme is simple but vital. Kia tau te rongomau. Let there be peace. It’s a theme brought upon by a global collective call for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine and an end to the 16-year siege on Gaza. The theme’s reflected in the artwork (depicted above) designed by Regan Balzer.

From the official press release: “We support Indigenous leaders and people across the world, including those here in Aotearoa who will not let our languages, our customs and our World to be destroyed.

“We are committed to the power of Indigenous storytelling to show different ways of co-existing, of managing conflict and living in reciprocity with our environment.

“Indigenous films create understanding. Understanding creates empathy. Empathy creates peace.

“Kia tau te rongomau / Ki tēnei piringa / Ki tēnei nohoanga / Ki tēnei huihuinga. Let peace and enlightenment reign / Over this gathering / Over this dwelling / Over these people.”

Here are five feature highlights from this year’s schedule:

The Mountain

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Local screen great Rachel House makes her feature directorial debut with this light-hearted adventure flick, starring Taranaki Maunga and three young newcomers. The story centres on a young girl seeking to connect with her Māori culture, hoping the mighty mountain will aid her battle with cancer, and making friends with two misfits along the way.

The Moogai

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Writer-director Jon Bell turns his award-winning horror short into a feature film, expanding his story of an Aboriginal couple welcoming their second baby into the world. It should be a joyous time, but the mother’s convinced a malevolent spirit is trying to take her child.

Frybread Face and Me

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In this Taika Waititi executively produced film, two teenage Navajo cousins bond over one fateful summer on their grandmother’s ranch—herding sheep, learning to drive, and discovering more about their family’s history. As Film Threat praises: “If you have been fiending all year for a quality drama that shares a different world, then Frybread Face and Me is what you have been waiting for.”

The Beautiful Scars of Tom Wilson

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Musician Tom Wilson’s memoir is the basis of this documentary. It’s one part profile, tracing his success as an artist in this 90s. The other side of the story reveals itself when Wilson’s parents pass, unearthing a secret that plunges Wilson on a path to connecting with his true identity.

Eallogierdu – The Tundra Within Me

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In this Norwegian drama, a young mother leaves the city and back to the wintry region of Sápmi with her son. While exploring Sami gender for an art project, she meets a reindeer herder and engages in a relationship—one her mother disapproves of.

Check out the full schedule over at the Māoriland site