Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
The director of Tatarakihi: The Children of Parihaka channels the spirit and poetry in the stories of Whanganui iwi, past and present, and the power of the river itself, in a film celebrating their deep connection. In 1995 an iwi-lead occupation of Pakaitore – a sacred block of land in central-city Whanganui widely known as Moutua Gardens – lasted 80 days. The protest drew support from other iwi across New Zealand and highlighted the longstanding struggle for custodianship of the river. Te Awa Tupua revisits the Pakaitore occupation in considerable depth, drawing on conversations amongst those who were there. As in the earlier film, Joseph threads historical imagery into his own more recently captured footage to express a powerful sense of continuity through time. He is marvellously abetted with footage filmed at Pakaitore by an Australian TV documentary crew, whose critical perspective on the Pākehā response provides some salutary reminders of what a bitter struggle this was. Almost 20 years later the life of the river is recognised in law, and this beautiful film bears witness to – and enacts – the transfer of Whanganui culture and history to future generations.