Bellbird to be the first NZ film release to offer Te Reo subtitled version

Following a successful run at this year’s Sydney Film Festival and the New Zealand International Film Festival, rural Kiwi flick Bellbird opens in cinemas nationwide 7 November and distributor Transmission Films is offering screenings with Te Reo Māori subtitles—a first for a homegrown film release.

The feature debut from writer-director Hamish Bennett (Ngāti Whakaue, Patuharakeke, Kati Waewae) takes place in the heart of a small New Zealand town, where a community comes together after a tragic death. “Authentic, sweet and soulful with solid masterful performances,” Flicks writer Sarah Voon raved when she caught it at NZIFF, “do not miss it.” The film stars Annie Whittle, Marshall Napier, Cohen Holloway, Rachel House, Stephen Tamarapa and newcomer Kahukura Retimana.

The official press release states: “Bellbird is a film which reflects New Zealand as we know it, where Māori and Pākehā stand side by side in a recognisable rural community as equals and Te Reo Māori can and should too. Transmission Films’ ambition is to honour this official language and the Māori cast and crew of Bellbird. Organisations such as Air New Zealand, Te Papa, and DoC for example have already normalised Te Reo Māori in their core business. Film has the opportunity to do likewise.”

Bennett adds, “Being a part of making Bellbird, and bringing it to screens around Aotearoa, has been a very special experience. It has been a community and whānau driven project at every step of the process, which makes sense given Bellbird is a film that, at its heart, is about community and whānau connection.

“Being able to acknowledge the importance of the indigenous language of Aotearoa, by providing subtitles for Bellbird in Te Reo Māori, fits this kaupapa perfectly. It ensures all speakers and learners of Te Reo Māori can enjoy our film and provides another way for communities and whānau across Aotearoa to connect with our story. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou – Kia kaha Te Reo Māori!”

The Te Reo subtitled screenings of Bellbird will be noted on Flicks closer to the film’s 7 Nov release. It’s up to the individual cinema if they offer the Te Reo Māori format as an option.