Features

Waru producers bring 8 Pacific Island directors together for their next project Vai

Left to right: Amberley Jo Aumua, Nicole Whippy, Matasila Freshwater, Mīria George

Last year’s Waru was a landmark feature for Aotearoa and proved to be a critical success – locally, internationally, and here at Flicks. Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, the film’s producers, are following up with their latest feature Vai, helmed by a group of female Pacific Island filmmakers. While Waru’s narrative had a latitudinal approach, where each story took place at the exact same time, Vai takes more of a longitudinal slant.

“The structure will be similar in that the film will be made of eight vignettes by eight writer/directors, including one writer/director pair,” the producers explained. “Vai is unique because each vignette will be a different moment in the same character’s life – Vai. She will age from a young girl to an old woman over the course of the film. Each vignette will be filmed on a different island and Vai will be indigenous to each one of those islands.”

Warkia and McNaughton started talking about the project in November last year, mere weeks after Waru’s nationwide release.

“When we discovered that audiences from Aotearoa and all over the world were connecting with Waru in a big way, we realised that we needed to make at least two more films with the same collaborative framework. We began talking about how we could create a film with Pacific island women.

“There is a lot of talent in New Zealand and the Pacific waiting to be given the opportunity to tell their stories. We made our selection from around 65 Pacific island women.”

Ambitiously filming in seven countries over the course of five weeks, each of the filmmakers behind Vai has an indigenous ancestral connection to one of seven countries in the South Pacific: Aotearoa, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, and Niue.

Here’s a little background on the filmmakers:


‘Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki is the director of the Women & Children Crisis Centre Tonga and has a B.A and M.A from the University of Auckland in Film, TV, Media Communications.

Amberley Jo Aumua recently directed the short film Waiting. Having played as part of New Zealand’s Best at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, it went on to win Best Film in the line-up that year.

Becs Arahanga’s short, Laundry, also played at NZIFF last year, which starred Aidee Walker as a woman trying to balance parenthood with a healthy sex life.

Dianna Fuemana wrote and directed LGBT tale Sunday Fun Day, which played as part of the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts selection at last year’s NZIFF.

Marina Alofagia McCartney is perhaps best known for her short Milk & Honey, which focused on a Pasifika family and the injustice they faced during the notorious dawn raids.

Mīria George is an award-winning playwright best known for her theatre work as a writer, director, and producer. Her plays include and what remains, Sunset Road, The Vultures and The Night Mechanics.

Sharon and Nicole Whippy will helm a segment together. Sharon has a rich history as a writer of poetry and short stories. Nicole, perhaps best known for her television work as an actor (Outrageous Fortune, Nothing Trivial), will make her film directorial debut with Vai.

Matasila Freshwater is a writer, director, illustrator, animator and anthropologist. Her recent animated short film Shmeat played as part of NZIFF 2016 and has been a regular finalist at the 48Hours filmmaking competition.


“It is incredibly exciting watching a team of talented creatives form a strong bond and develop stories that they have been aching to tell,” Warkia and McNaughton concluded. “We would like to develop something like this for a television series.”

This story is part of our month-long celebration of 40 years of NZ film. Follow all our daily coverage here.