Five New Zealand families, each grieving over a loved one who took their life, bravely and openly discuss the tragedy of suicide in this feature film from director Paora Joseph (Te Awa Tupua – Voices from the River). The film plays as part of NZIFF and will will NOT have a commercial cinema release after the festival. Instead, it will have community and marae screenings.
We posed Joseph a couple of questions about the film.
FLICKS: Please summarise your film in EXACTLY ten words.
PAORA JOSEPH: A raw, compelling road trip of loss, forgiveness and redemption.
What came first: the decision to make a documentary about suicide in Aotearoa or this hikoi wairua for the whānau portrayed in the film?
These two ideas were born together. Awhi mai; Awhi atu – healing through the lens. We heal through sharing and, similarly, people are liberated when they experience what others have had to endure within their own lives.
How did you come across the whānau portrayed in the film?
Some of the whānau I already had a relationship with, and other whānau were brought into the kaupapa through my producer – Karen Waaka-Tibble and a colleague, Tania Papali’i, the Northern Suicide Prevention Coordinator. It was quite organic really.
What motivated the decision to interweave the documentary with the dramatised story of Tama?
There were two reasons for this. The first was to relate to a young audience and secondly to translate the after-death element.
How did you, yourself, cope emotionally throughout this journey?
I had my best mate along for the journey, working as a runner. We had known each other since we were four years old. He was my backstop if I needed to regain perspective of the kaupapa. Also, having belief in what our Tupuna are supporting us to bring to fruition goes a long way.
With stories this raw, did you find this film more difficult to edit than your previous two films?
Yes! To find the balance between the doco and drama is the challenge. People who had worked on this material had definitely found it emotionally challenging. I am thankful for to my editor Gareth Dick who endured the long haul to bring to completion the original vision for the film.
What was the hardest thing to remove from the final cut of the film?
I wanted to do justice to what the whānau shared within the hikoi. They were forthcoming in talking about the methods of suicide by which their loved ones took their life. We do not want the film to have a negative effect so these methods were taken out in the final cut.
What was a great film you experienced?
The Mission – directed by Roland Joffe and starring Robert De Niro. A great story and spectacular cinematography.