March 22-24, 2018 - Maoriland Film Festival

When I arrived in Wellington in the late afternoon I needed to look for a place to camp for the night. In Wellington itself that's near to impossible unless you pay for it. So I decided to drive to the DOC campsite just outside Wellington, close to a bay. On my way there I passed a cute looking cinema and stopped to see what their were showing. Turned out they were showing 'Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri', a film that won Frances McDormand the Oscar for best actress. I parked my car a little farther down the road since the car park of the cinema charged me for parking. Seriously? I'm watching a film with you and you charge me? No way, Jose. I know, I'm so cheap. Instead I ordered a large flat white and a movie ticket and waited in the lounge area/restaurant until my film would start. I was lucky, it was movie night and the film only cost me $NZ10. I enjoyed my coffee and then my film. Great evening. I also decided to camp in my car right there because it was free and no sign of no camping.

The next morning I drove back to the CBD because I had a massage/body scrub pampering appointment. It-was-so-good! After two hours I came out and felt like a new person. Before I left Wellington I spent some time at the Te Papa Museum and enjoyed their exhibitions. Nothing there was really new to me since I had been to exhibitions about the Maori culture before as well as WW1 exhibitions. That doesn't mean that it wasn't good. It's a great museum, just not when you've been to similar ones before. Time to leave the city and head north again.


On my way to Auckland I passed Otaki again. I remembered the place from when I drove down. I had stopped there for a coffee and pee break. I was driving past the shops on Highway 1 when I saw a sign that announced the Maoriland Film Festival 2018. I looked at the dates and guess what? It was on right now. Well lucky me. Usually the events I come across are either past or so far into the future that I'm somewhere else then. Not this time. Without giving it too much thought I drove to the town center of Otaki to find out about this festival. The sigh said it was an Indigenous Peoples film festival. How interesting.

I parked the car behind the museum and walked over to the library. While I was in town I might check out the library for some internet work. I walked past the War Memorial Hall and smelled fresh basil. A woman was picking some form a community garden. I could smell the basil from five meters away. An elderly man walked towards me and I commented on the beautiful smell. He smiled and then told me to go to the memorial hall and grab some soup. It was Thursday and they always offer free soup on Thursdays. I told him I didn't want to take food away from people in need. No, no, he said. It was free for everyone. It's a service to the community to get people to gather and sit together and chat. He basically forced me to go. I laughed and said I would. So I turned around and got my soup. I went for the pea and chorizo soup. It was delicious. And yes, indeed, I did get to talk to quite a few people. Most were elderly ones, but they have the most interesting stories anyway. So we chatted for a bit and were at the same time serenaded by another nice gentleman with his guitar.

After an hour or so I made my way back to the main road. I even had received all the information about the festival I needed. I knew now that I wanted to be at the civic hall by two o'clock to watch the first short film collection. and thus I spent the whole day and evening at the movies and watched one presentation after the next. It was an easy decision to do that. It was raining all day long and each film only cost $6. Let me tell you, I enjoyed every session and some I really loved.

I did the same thing on Friday. I did my laundry in the morning, downloaded a new audiobook at the library and went back to the festival. Here are my tips for you if you get a chance to get hold of these films: Rumble (Native Americans' influence on music), Mankiller (about Cherokee chief Wilma P. Mankiller), Defend the Fire (Native Americans as warriors). There were many excellent short films. Check out their website if you want more details.

One section I saw was a collection of short film made by young filmmakers on various Pacific Islands. It's a programme of Maoriland to give young students the chance to work in film. One of the creators of this programme, Libby, talked to us about the work and the experiences. Then she said she had had the honour to have had breakfast with President Barack Obama that morning. Yes, Obama was currently visiting New Zealand. (Funny little anecdote here: on the news on the radio they actually said that Barack Obama who was currently visiting New Zealand had the chance for a revenge game of golf. He had lost to the former President of New Zealand and could try to beat him in another game. That made the news. A golf game. Nothing more about his trip.)

So, Libby had breakfast with Obama and then she and some other Indigenous people sat together and talked to him for a bit. They presented what they were doing. When she told him about Maoriland and the idea of helping to protect and revive Native languages and traditions he loved it. Obama said he was so amazed to see how well the Maori language, culture and people are integrated in NZ. His experience from having lived in Hawaii was a completely different one. The same he knows to be true for other indigenous languages in the USA and other parts of the world. He said he was going to found a presidential institute of native languages in Hawaii in order to support the language initiatives. (Or something along those lines. It's very significant though.) Libby then told him about the young filmmakers project and Obama said he could help her. He knew a guy in the business. His name was Steven Spielberg :0

Can you imagine the reaction of the crowd at the movies? I was blown away and actually had to wipe a tear from my eyes. I love Barack Obama!

Libby Hakaraia, director of MFF
Libby Hakaraia, director of MFF

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