White Lies(Tuakiri Huna)
Redemption comes at a price.
New Zealand period drama based on the novella Medicine Woman by Witi Ihimaera, author of The Whale Rider. Stars Whirimako Black, Rachel House and Antonia Prebble.... More
Paraiti (Black) is the healer and midwife of her rural, tribal people. But new laws are in force prohibiting unlicensed healers. On a rare trip to the city, she is approached by Maraea (House), the servant of a wealthy woman, Rebecca (Prebble), who seeks her knowledge and assistance in order to hide a secret which will destroy Rebecca’s position in European settler society. If the secret is uncovered a life may be lost, but hiding it may also have fatal consequences, forcing a clash of beliefs, deception and ultimate salvation.Hide
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BY James Croot Flicks Writer
This atmospheric 1920s-set tale from Mexican writer-director Dana Rotberg (who made her home in New Zealand after seeing the 2002 adaptation of Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider) is essentially a chamber piece populated by three very good acting performances. Best known as a Maori recording artist, Whirimako Black is a revelation in her first film role, while Rachel House (Whale Rider) does the heavy emotional lifting and a porcelain and prim Antonia Prebble (TV’s The Blue Rose) does terse and tragic with equal aplomb.... More
Yes, be warned this is not a film for the faint-hearted or even mildly pregnant as some scenes may seriously disturb (for once it’s a film where women rather than men will find themselves crossing their legs). That may be partly due to the haunting cinematography of Alun Bollinger (River Queen), especially when coupled with John Psathas' atmospheric and forboding, yet sparse and understated score.
But while the story takes a couple of unexpected turns (although its cinematic title is a big clue) and builds to a nicely judged ending, it does take a long time to get going. Some of the editing feels a bit rough (some scenes are too short, others too long) and the limited locations and action make it all seem a little too theatrical, a story more suited to the live stage.Hide
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BY JenniferJ wannabe
BY Weds_Loafers superstar
BY Mark-Roulston superstar
Adapted from Witi Ihimaera's novella Medicine Woman, White Lies doesn't have a particularly... More well told story at its core, but is nonetheless an important film for NZ to have produced. Set during the early days of settlement, the film depicts a sinuous power struggle between colonial housewife Rebecca (Prebble), her housemaid Maraea (Rachel House), and Paraiti (Whirimako Black), the Maori medicine woman whose particular skills and discretion are sought.
The shifting dominance of each of these women, representing different aspects of female identity at the time, weaves a compelling and bleak narrative, but some of the story beats that should have had greater impact unfortunately fall a little flat. Elements that needed more room to breathe play out much too quickly, not allowing audiences time to digest, although the film's closing scenes are powerful. White Lies deals with uncomfortable subject matter, and Rotberg doesn't shy away from the story's most tragic aspects.
Thankfully, White Lies looks better than any NZ film for some time. The cinematography by NZ legend Alun Bollinger gives the rugged setting of the film a beautifully oppressive quality reminiscent of his work on Vincent Ward's Vigil, and has moments of rare, haunting beauty.
It's a shame that most viewers will be unable to hear Rotberg speak about her approach to the film. The director's keen understanding of the tragedy of colonialism in her homeland brings significance to White Lies that a Kiwi director may have been guarded about addressing, and hearing her thoughts on NZ colonialism and our nervous attitude about exposing our own violent past was incredibly refreshing. Her desire to treat the subject with integrity while never sugarcoating it comes across with wonderful passion, and while she remained respectful of the source material, she makes no excuses for altering Ihimaera's work to suit her own vision. Despite the film's faults, White Lies takes more risks and offers deeper perspective than most NZ films of late.