Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dana Rotberg and White Lies|Tuakiri Huna

Dana Rotberg

Cushla Parekowhai and I went to previews for Dana Rotberg's new feature White Lies/Tuakiri Huna – Cush in Auckland and me down here in Wellington. And the film excited us. White Lies/Tuakiri Huna, described as 'a story about the nature of identity: those who deny it and those who strive to protect it', comes from Medicine Woman, a novella by Witi Ihimaera, who also wrote Whale Rider. (Witi is Cushla's cousin. Witi's father, Tom Smiler, and Cush's grandmother, Pani Turangi, were raised in the same household in Manutuke.)

Dana wrote, in the book that accompanies the film, that after she read Medicine Woman –
...Paraiti, the medicine woman, was a stubborn presence who refused to leave. I felt that was a clear sign that the story...was speaking to me from places other than where the original work had come from. Places that belonged to my intimate family history and my most unresolved conflicts as a person in the world. It was a call from the core of my origins to look for answers that mattered to me, being myself a half-caste, a woman, a mother and a descendant of people who have been eternal immigrants or brutally colonised by others. A call coming from every drop of the Mexican, Jewish, Catholic, Polish, indigenous, Italian, Spanish and Russian blood that runs through my veins. The blood of my tipuna. My very own whakapapa.
White Lies/Tuakiri Huna stars Whirimako Black, Rachel House and Antonia Prebble and opens in New Zealand cinemas this week.

Whirimako Black as Paraiti, with Oti the dog
White Lies/Tuakiri Huna is thought-provoking and for us was a fresh look at the post-colonial. For once a traditional Maori community is represented as successful, at ease in their land, a group not dislocated and dispossessed but positive, organised and determined. The film is 80% in te reo Maori, with subtitles. White Lies/Tuakiri Huna might also be New Zealand's first Bechdel Test narrative feature. And it intrigued us that Dana Rotberg is a feminist filmmaker from Mexico.

Diasporas are significant in New Zealand women's filmmaking: think Jane Campion, Alison Maclean, Niki Caro (whose Whale Rider also came from a Witi Ihimaera story), Pietra Brettkelly, Christine Jeffs and Sally Tran (and previous Killer Films interns) as those scattered short- or long-term outside New Zealand. And Sima Urale, Shuchi Kothari, Sapna Sanant, Zia Mandviwalla, Roseanne Liang, Nathalie Boltt and Clare Burgess among those who’ve diaspora'd in, or whose parents did. But a distinguished feminist director from Mexico, whose Angel de Fuego (1992) opened Directors Week at Cannes and whose Otilia Rauda won the NHK Filmmaker's Award at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, an award to 'honor and support emerging independent filmmakers whose originality, talent, and vision can contribute significantly to the future of world cinema'? We had so many questions! And had more once we watched the clips at the end of the post, from the New Zealand Herald. And there's a wonderful dog, Oti, played by Finn – we'd love to know more about Finn but we forgot to ask the question!