The great Barry Barclay’s landmark feature film centred on a Māori community in the 1940s.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
As the first feature film written and directed by Māori, Barry Barclay’s Ngāti is a landmark in New Zealand cinema, and something of a classic. Ngāti features notable contributions by writer Tama Poata (1936–2005) and actor Wi Kuki Kaa (1938–2006), both of whom played major roles in the development of the Film Archive. The film is set in 1948 in a tiny Māori community on the East Cape where the district’s main employer, the freezing works, is facing closure. Despite its apparently gentle surface as the tale of a young Australian discovering his Kiwi roots, Ngāti has considerable emotional depth and is especially rich in its observation of the myriad possible relationships between Māori ways and Pakeha. Both script and direction de-emphasise the personal or melodramatic in favour of a vital sense of inter-connection. That said, Wi Kuki Kaa and Connie Pewhairangi in particular lend great power and conviction to the film’s eloquent manifesto for Māori self-determination. — BG