"For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children's future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it." - Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Thanks Social Media
Last week I was scrolling through my Facebook feed late Friday night. I came across a post from the New Zealand Consulate in Los Angeles promoting a new documentary film. Out of curiosity I clicked on it and saw they were having a special screening that Sunday in LA and that there would be a Q&A with the Directors and Producers of the film afterwards. I recognized 2 of the 4 names mentioned. Producers Clifford Curtis, a talented actor who’s played so many diverse characters in Hollywood, and Taika Watiti an accomplished film Director and voice of Corg from the Marvel movies. For my Mother’s Day gift, I asked if we could go. Of course my sweetie made it happen and got my sister Erana and brother Hagoth to come with us.
With only 24 hours before we would attend the screening I got my social media stalking on and followed the Directors of the film Heperi Mita and Chelsea Winstanley via Instagram. By doing so I found out that this was their big weekend release. They started there premiere journey in Aotearoa (New Zealand) on Mother’s Day and were continuing it here in California also on Mother’s Day. I enjoyed watching their IG stories of attending the different screenings and their adventures getting to and through the airports.
As a Maori woman, I wanted to watch the movie because I have a personal connection and desire to support other Maori. Aotearoa is my mother’s homeland and even though I was born and raised here in America I like to take any chance I can to learn about or be more connected to my Maori culture.
The film is an intimate look at Merata Mita's life as a mother, filmmaker, and activist. "Merata, was the first Māori woman, and first indigenous woman in the world, to write and direct a narrative feature film. She directed movies in Hollywood, interviewed Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and worked for various respected organisations around the world such as the BBC and National Geographic. Her independent political documentaries of the ‘70s and ‘80s highlighted the injustices for Māori people in New Zealand, and often divided the country" (meratathemovie.com).
Merata & Mom
The film is directed and narrated by Merata’s youngest son Hepi. I loved how through creating this film he learned through book interviews , film, and his older siblings more about his mother. He stated how it was good to hear her voice again on film. I definitely could relate to his experiences. Being number 9 of 10 kids I definitely saw my mother differently and experienced life differently with her than my older siblings. I find myself looking for pieces of my mom and wondering what she was doing at my age or what would she think of me now. Luckily, I have my older siblings I can ask.
I think one of the reasons this film hit so close to home was that my eldest niece had just shared a clip of my own mother singing with my Aunty Linda. It had been the first time I had heard her voice in several years. Hearing my mother’s and Merata’s voice encouraged me as a Mother to be mindful of the legacy I leave for my own posterity. I’m grateful for this reminder.
SHEroes & HERstory
So it’s been a week since I’ve watched this amazing film. I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of the Indigenous Women Movement, and I love it. I’ve found some wonderful podcasts, Instagram stories, and films to educate myself. I’m definitely fangirling over Director Chelsea Winstanley. She is also a powerful Maori woman who inspires and continues to create space for other indigenous women to rise up and bring about change. I look forward to watching more of her films and following her future in the film industry.
"The revolution isn't just running out with a gun, it's the arts as well. And if a film I make causes Maori people to feel stronger about themselves, I'm achieving something worthwhile for the revolution."