NZIFF 2021 Q&A with the directors of Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts


Find out more about the short films in Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts, playing as part of Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival.

Maruia Jensen, director of Disconnected

FLICKS: Describe your film in EXACTLY eight words.

MARUIA JENSEN: Mai i te pō ki te ao mārama.

What drove you to tell this story?

This story was inspired by the loss of my mother and how some of our whānau members coped with our grief. It’s a process that many of us struggle with but are too proud to reach out and ask for support—especially our Māori males.

What reaction are you hoping to get from audiences?

I hope the audience will be able to laugh along, empathise and connect with the characters and the story.

Can you share your favourite memory during your time making this film?

On the first day of shooting I asked my whānau to jump in as extras. Watching them on the screen was such a huge buzz :)

What was the last great film you saw?

Hair Love (Short Film 2019).

Chantelle Burgoyne, director of Sista

FLICKS: Describe your film in EXACTLY eight words.

CHANTELLE BURGOYNE: Deeply personal, emotional, sisterhood, peer pressure, misunderstanding, love.

What drove you to tell this story?

My sister Leilani and I co-wrote the film and it is loosely based on events that happened when we were teenagers that we never really talked about until we were adults. When we finally did talk about that time I found it fascinating that we had held such different perspectives that were equally valid and there were images that just wouldn’t leave my mind so that was where the initial impetus for the film began.

As we worked on it together we really wanted to try and show the humanness of these two sisters who were trying to navigate their ways through their adolescence in what can be a challenging and at times painful time.

What reaction are you hoping to get from audiences?

I hope that it provokes thought and I hope that it resonates with audiences, particularly young girls.

Can you share your favourite memory during your time making this film?

I have so many memories from making Sista that it’s hard to just choose a favourite one as we had such a wonderful and generous cast and crew but there is a moment from one of our rehearsals that really sticks out to me.

I was very fortunate to have Stacey Leilua on board as an acting coach for the film and in the lead up to the shoot we held a rehearsal session with Lizzie Overhoff and Daniela Mika who play sisters Tiana and Isabelle and Katerina Fatupaito who plays their mother Ava. The relationship between them in the film is fraught with tension, particularly between Ava and Tiana, but underneath there is still love.

We came up with some exercises to bring about that connection between our actors one of which was to have Kat gently brush Lizzie’s hair as Daniela quietly observed and then we had Kat and Lizzie swap places and then Daniela and Lizzie, it was very simple but I remember feeling a charge in the room and seeing the impact it had on our actors.

It became a beautiful and tender memory so to speak that they could take into the shoot during scenes where the characters weren’t being so loving with each other.

What was the last great film you saw?

I recently watched The Father during lockdown and I thought it was an incredible and at times harrowing film with what felt like a very authentic depiction of dementia. It was beautifully and meticulously crafted and the cast was excellent, especially Sir Anthony Hopkins who was brilliant in it.

Raymond Edwards, director of True Love

FLICKS: Describe your film in EXACTLY eight words.

RAYMOND EDWARDS: A film about the truth, secrets and love

What drove you to tell this story?

A desire to highlight/communicate my experience of life

What reaction are you hoping to get from audiences?

For True Love to resonate with the personal experiences of the audience.

Can you share your favourite memory during your time making this film?

Giving my final mihi to the crew after we shot the final scene on State Highway 35 at the base of my maunga, across the road from my marae in my turangawaewae.

What was the last great film you saw?

The last great film I watched was called A Woman Under the Influence. As soon as I saw it it became a huge inspiration for the style and feel of True Love.

Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand, director of Disrupt

FLICKS: Describe your film in EXACTLY eight words.

JENNIFER TE ATAMIRA WARD-LEALAND: A p-addicted moko. Is his nan’s love enough?

What drove you to tell this story?

It was Aroha asking if I’d be keen to direct it. I responded with, “Did you mean to send this email to me, because I haven’t directed a short film before”. His encouragement definitely gave the the courage to take it on. Once I’d signed on, so many people I met around the country told me of their experiences with family under the yoke of P and I feel privileged to tell this particular story.

What reaction are you hoping to get from audiences?

I hope that they’ll see what a complex dynamic it can be when looking at this kaupapa of P addiction. When we see it through the lens of one family, and in particular a grandmother and her beloved moko, we have to ask if will love be enough?

Can you share your favourite memory during your time making this film?

Working with the actors was such a joy and I honestly enjoyed every day. Also, it was a treat to shoot in my Great Aunt Jill’s house. She’s 94 and very kindly left home for two days so we could film there and the house itself is a character in the film.

What was the last great film you saw?

Malcolm & Marie (Directed by Sam Levinson) was utterly captivating. Excellent performances from the two actors.

Mīria George, director of Fire in the water, fire in the sky

FLICKS: Describe your film in EXACTLY eight words.

MĪRIA GEORGE: A woman remembers to live is to dance.

What drove you to tell this story?

Understanding the urgency of climate action and our Pasifika nations who face the frontline of climate change.

I was also driven by the want to see te iti tangata Kūki ‘Āirani on the cinema screen.

What reaction are you hoping to get from audiences?

That they feel joy seeing Cook Islands film in Aotearoa New Zealand—and that they leave the cinema reminded of the fragility of modern life.

Can you share your favourite memory during your time making this film?

Arriving at and leaving te motu o Matiu. The patience of the iwi kaitiaki and Department of Conservation rangers, Gemma, Jeff and Evan, who had to clear every single item that we brought onto the motu.

And again the patience of the rangers as our whole crew loaded the ferry when we left the island four days later.

What was the last great film you saw?

I rewatched Como Agua Para Chocolate (dir. Alfonso Arau) a Mexican romantic drama steeped with magic realism. From the early ’90s, it was one of the highest grossing foreign language films to be released in the US at the time.

While at times it’s melodramatic, it’s also a heartbreaking love story. I love the magic of it.