Screened as part of NZIFF 2021

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star 2021

Directed by Toby Mills, Aileen O'Sullivan

What Sir Edmund Hillary did in conquering Everest, Sir Hekenukumai Busby has done in reclaiming the lost art of traditional Māori voyaging, sailing the vast Pacific navigating by the stars – restoring the past to carve our way into the future.

90 minutes DCP


Directors, Producers


Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi
Nainoa Thompson


Alun Bollinger


Ken Sparks

Aotearoa New Zealand films at NZIFF 2022 are proudly supported by


For Māori, the canoe underpins our culture. We once built waka/canoes from giant trees and sailed the vast Pacific by the stars.  These arts were lost to us for 600 years. Then the stars re-aligned and three men from far flung islands revived our place as the greatest navigators on the planet, a Hawaiian, a Micronesian and Hek Busby, “The Chief” from Aotearoa/New Zealand. 

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star is the story of Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi, aka Hek Busby, and his significance for Māori in rekindling their wayfinding DNA and for all New Zealanders in reclaiming our place as traditional star voyages on the world map.   

“Toby Mills and Aileen O’Sullivan’s stirring documentary Whetū Mārama – Bright Star depicts this extraordinary journey: Sir Hek’s willingness as a student, bravery as a modern-pioneer waka builder and navigator, and desire to pass on this regathered knowledge to future generations. Story strands are skillfully interwoven via recent interviews, waka hourua voyaging, archival footage and creative dramatic reconstructions. Whetū Mārama conveys the wairua of Sir Hek, the impassioned individual, and of a committed group of pan-Pacific navigators and their supportive whānau, who together strove to restore an all but lost art of our voyaging Pacific heritage, thereby strengthening our future. Ka mua, ka muri (Walking backwards into the future) indeed!”  — Jacob Powell

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star is the story of a culture that understands an inner compass. Hek’s voyaging has reconnected his crews with their inbuilt GPS systems and they in turn are teaching and inspiring the next generation, building a bridge back into our past to take us forward into the future.