#Crucial21DbW: Waru directed by 8 Māori directors

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8 protagonists, all Māori women. 8 directors (and one co-writer), all Māori women with screenwriting, directing or producing experience, working on their first feature film. 8 chapters of 10 minutes, each shot in a single breath-taking take. And at the heart of it, one eight-year-old boy named Waru, around whose funeral the community has come together to stop itself falling apart. Moving from the can’t-stand-the-heat-then-get-out kitchen where organiser Charm is preparing food (and negotiating a new relationship with her son’s white girlfriend) to a black-and-white world in which Titty and Bash, two farmers who may be divine beings, arrive to exact justice, Waru is threaded by Waru’s voice-over, suggesting that we navigate from character to character based on his connection to the world he’s left behind.

Waru
Waru

We meet his grieving grandmothers, who perform the needed rituals for him; his primary school teacher and her lover, as she tries to balance her professional and personal lives; a journalist facing down on-air racism from her colleagues; struggling single mothers who receive wake-up calls about taking care of themselves and their children; and a young woman who steps up to channel her grandmother’s power.

Waru
Waru
Waru
Waru

Mere, in fact, channels the power of the whole film – both its narrative and its production – as she challenges the man who has been abusing children in the community for years. Her cousin and other women gather behind her, presenting a united front; strength in union around Mere’s daring and responsibility. So too the film, gathering its eight protagonists, throws down the gauntlet: listen to the voices of Indigenous women; admit that exclusion from the means of production is a form of violence; and recognise that there are Indigenous women with the skills, experience and brilliance to make world-changing films.

Here are their names: Briar Grace-Smith (Ngāti Hau and Ngāpuhi); Casey Kaa (Ngāpuhi and Tainui); Ainsley Gardiner (Ngāti Awa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Pikiao, Whakatōhea); Katie Wolfe (Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama); Renae Maihi (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāpuhi); Chelsea Cohen (Ngāti Ranginui); Paula Jones (Te Whakatōhea, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Porou); Awanui Simich-Pene (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Apakura, Croatian, Belgian); and Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu (Ngāpuhi).

Watch Waru, and watch out for what they do next.

Waru is available to stream on Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hoopla, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube. Follow Waru on the film’s website.

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