Under the Southern Cross (image 1)

Neither tribal custom, danger nor the sacred ban of 'tapu' could overcome the strength of his love.

1928 tagline

Screened as part of NZIFF 2010

Under the Southern Cross 1929

Directed by Lew Collins

Musicians Warren Maxwell, Maaka McGregor and Himiona Grace perform a new soundtrack bringing humour and fresh perspective to this ‘Māori folk drama’ made in New Zealand by Hollywood’s Universal Studios in 1928.

57 minutes B&W



Hugh Hoffman


Wilfrid M. Cline
Harold I. Smith


Ray Curtiss


Warren Maxwell
Maaka McGregor
Himiona Grace


Witarina Mitchell (Miro)
Patiti Warbrick (Patiti)
Hoana Keeha (Rangi)
Ani Warbrick (Anu)

Musicians Warren Maxwell, Maaka McGregor and Himiona Grace were commissioned by the New Zealand Film Archive to devise a new soundtrack and bring fresh perspective to this ‘Mâori folk drama’ made by Hollywood’s Universal Studios in 1928. Filming began around Rotorua, Waitomo and White Island, under the direction of adventurer Alexander Markey. After six months, with 28,000 ft shot for a 6,600-ft feature, but only half the story completed, Markey was recalled and replaced by his assistant Lew Collins.
The film follows the Mâori tribes and sworn enemies, the Ariki and the Watee, separated by a volcano. Waging war for centuries, Chief Pakura (Ariki) hopes to end the conflict by offering his daughter Miro in marriage to the Watee prince, Patiti. To win Miro’s hand Patiti must first win the ‘Contest of Spears’ against Rangi, a young man from the Ariki tribe.

Witarina Te Miriarangi Parewahaika Harris QSM (1906–2007) plays the lead role of Miro. She gave a luminous performance but chose not to pursue a film career. Witarina became the Film Archive’s kaumatua in 1982, accompanying the Mâori collection extensively around the country and overseas. She held this position until her death in 2007, aged 101. — Diane Pivac

“The three of us have the same backgrounds culturally and musically… We really pushed our limits playing new instruments and styles including the violin and a very unrhythmic bandsaw coupled with ‘house beats’ and funk. Taonga puoro and Wellington reggae is, of course, in the mix with touches of country, melodic waiata and a few surprises just for good measure.” — Himiona Grace