‘Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen’

Kiwi director Heperi Mita’s debut feature Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen will have its international premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, which runs from January 24 – February 3.

An intimate portrayal of pioneering filmmaker Merata Mita told through the eyes of her children, the documentary had its world premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival in August.

Merata was the first Māori woman to write and direct a narrative feature with her 1988 film Mauri while her political films highlighted the injustices for Māori people during the 1980s.

She played a supporting character in her husband Geoff Murphy’s 1983 seminal feature Utu, the saga of a warrior who sets out for vengeance after British forces kill his people. She died in 2010, aged 68.

A film archivist, Heperi drew on the extensive film and television footage of his mother as well as on her own films to uncover the stories she never had the chance to share. His older siblings play a key role in the film, filling in their younger brother on their lives before he was born.

He won the the 2018 Pacific Islanders in Communication Trailblazer Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Producer Chelsea Winstanley said: “Hepi has created a beautiful, intimate and very personal film that, despite her passing, is incredibly timely and relevant today. Merata continues to inspire indigenous voices around the world to tell their own stories, her courage and determination paved the way for so many and we will always be forever indebted to her.”

New Zealand Film Commission CEO Annabelle Sheehan added: “Heperi’s film is a compelling insight into one of New Zealand’s most important Māori filmmakers. It is fitting that it have its North American premiere at Sundance, which has had a long tradition of championing the stories and voices of indigenous filmmakers.”

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