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Waru

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Eight Māori female directors contribute a sequence to this feature which unfolds around the tangi of a boy who died at the hands of his caregiver. More

Eight Māori female directors contribute a sequence to this feature which unfolds around the tangi of a boy who died at the hands of his caregiver.

"We see a single death through the differing lenses of the extended family, community, and in one sharp sequence, national media too. Waru weaves multiple reactions and offers a glimpse into the events which ensue upon the killing of a child and the conflict created among loved ones." (RNZ/The Hui)

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Directed by Briar Grace-Smith Katie Wolfe ('Kawa') Casey Kaa Ainsley Gardiner Chelsea Cohen Renae Maihi Paula Jones Awanui Simich-Pene

Starring Tanea Heke, Roimata Fox, Ngapaki Moetara, Awhina-Rose Ashby, Maria Walker, Kararaina Rangihau, Acacia Hapi, Miriama McDowell, Amber Curreen

Rated M, Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & content that may disturb | 1:26 | Drama |

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Flicks REVIEW

By Liam Maguren

Chances are, you’ve never witnessed anything like Waru. This isn’t because of its multi-narrative one-shot structure - comparable... Read more

Chances are, you’ve never witnessed anything like Waru. This isn’t because of its multi-narrative one-shot structure - comparable to 2005’s Nine Lives - and the actual reason for Waru’s uniqueness isn’t a positive one. With only two feature films credited to female Māori directors, Merata Mita's Mauri and Ramai Hayward's To Love a Māori, the voices of Aotearoa’s native women haven’t been heard enough in cinema. With Waru, the film's eight directors deliver an emotional shout into that silence, and it carries the spread and whaea power of a shotgun.

The film displays eight moments in time, each realised in one shot and starting at 10am on the same day. They all connect to the tangi of a small boy named Waru: a teacher trying to cope with the loss; a mother locked out of her house after an all-nighter; two women on a rural road heading straight into a hornet’s nest. The pacing and dynamics of each scene never stay the same, embedding this latitudinal form of storytelling with a convincing sense of time, place and reality.

Cinematographer Drew Sturge does a hell of a job bringing a visual tonality that ties the tales together. Some elements aren’t so consistent, however. The doses of 2D animation in Mihi add very little and somewhat distracts from an otherwise quietly tense situation. The segment Kiritapu calls bullshit on toxic Pākehā media, which is very satisfying, but the cast surrounding Maria Walker’s performance play their roles with a cartoonish satire that doesn’t fit an otherwise grounded feature.

But one thing that cannot be faulted is the nine central performances. Young Acacia Hapi makes an almighty impact as Mere, a quite girl who takes a stand. Kararaina Rangihau and Merehake Maaka effortlessly carry a shipping container’s worth of emotional weight as Waru’s grandmothers, making grim debates in regal fashion. For me, however, the total knockout of Waru is Tanea Heke as Aunty Charm, who juggles distress and command (as well as humour) with levels of authority and vitality rarely matched by any other supporting performance in New Zealand film history.

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THE PEOPLE’S REVIEWS (3 Ratings, 2 Reviews)
A bit of a mixed bag 3/5 stars.

By Michael17

A bit of a mixed bag. From a technical point of view the shorts are excellent and there are some powerful moments . But the short form is also what hinders it,... Read more

A bit of a mixed bag. From a technical point of view the shorts are excellent and there are some powerful moments . But the short form is also what hinders it, with things feeling forced and unearned. Surface level comments which never delve deeper (much like my reviews). Also some questionable dialogue and acting. But each of these filmmakers are very promising and I hope have a bright filmmaking career ahead of them, here's to NZ supporting female directors. I note some of the audience laughing at an unintentionally funny drunk character, says quite a bit about NZ drinking culture. Hide
Wow. 5/5 stars.

By fairbrother

"When I died, I saw the whole world." These are the first words we hear in WARU, whispered in voice-over by the titular character, a young Maori boy whom we... Read more

"When I died, I saw the whole world." These are the first words we hear in WARU, whispered in voice-over by the titular character, a young Maori boy whom we will never meet - because he has been murdered. His tangi, taking place on a rural marae, is today; the consequences and implications of his death, we realise with sobering clarity, will resonate for years, possibly generations, through those who have survived him. Rest assured that this is not a re-run of Once Were Warriors' sledgehammer melodrama. Rather than dramatize the abuse of an innocent, which could amount to exploitative sensationalism even in the most careful artistic hands, WARU takes a more oblique, nuanced, and altogether persuasive approach to this subject matter. The film is comprised of eight chapters, all set on the morning of the tangi but taking place at various locations, and each observing how this tragedy has impacted, or might impact, different women on the periphery of Waru's story. Aunty Charm is running the marae kitchen as mourners arrive; Anahera is teaching Waru's classmates at the local school; Mihi is stuck at home, her car broken down, her call to WINZ on indefinite hold; Em is staggering home after a night on the piss; Kiritapu is a mainstream news show's token brown compliment to a scummy Mike Hoskings-type host; Ranui and Hinga are Waru's great-grandmothers and conflicting kaitiaki of his departing spirit; Mere, a tween cousin to Waru, watches over her little brother as he plays on the marae grounds; sisters Titty and Bash, in the final chapter, wrestle with the agonizing dilemma of knowing what needs to be done - but not knowing if they have the strength to do it. Note here: there's not a bad performance in the bunch. Each chapter, written and directed by a different film-maker (all wahine Maori!), is realised in an unbroken take approximating real time, the action choreographed around a fluid-moving camera. This format serves some of the stories better than others but, on the whole, it's immersive, and an effective "uniform" for the convergence of voices and viewpoints. Each story tackles it's literal subject(s) head-on, but there are layers of pertinent subtext, too: the ways that racial stereotyping can sour even well-meaning efforts to bridge cultural divides; the boundaries of responsibility we draw between ourselves and others; and, of course, how establishing "whodunit?" in cases such as Waru's may set the wheels of legal justice turning, and appease our collective shame by presenting concrete targets for scorn and judgment, but also permits us to stop short of answering the larger question "why does this keep happening here, and what can we do about it?" In keeping with this last theme, the film lets its characters throw a lot of blame around, but boldly refuses to confirm the true identity of Waru's killer (or killers). The tone is appropriately sombre, but hope, courage, love, and a distinctly Maori sense of humour sparkle faintly even in the most emotionally wrenching scenes. Films about such grave social issues mightn't fall into the broad category of "entertainment", but WARU is absorbing, powerful, and absolutely essential. It's from, and about, here-and-now. I couldn't stop thinking about it all night after I left the theatre, and it sprang right back to the forefront of my mind the minute I woke up the next day. It feels like an instant classic of our national cinema. WARU screens as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival. Hide
CRITICS REVIEW
RogerEbert.com (Nick Allen)

Passion is a thrilling, guiding element to this film; the thematic dedication to exploring the Maori culture dealing with this grief is just the beginning.

Passion is a thrilling, guiding element to this film; the thematic dedication to exploring the Maori culture dealing with this grief is just the beginning. Hide
BirthMoviesDeath (USA)

The best New Zealand drama in years.

The best New Zealand drama in years. Hide
Hollywood Reporter

A fascinating glimpse into New Zealand's contemporary Maori community, Waru brings a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a... Read more

A fascinating glimpse into New Zealand's contemporary Maori community, Waru brings a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a suspenseful mystery. Hide
Stuff.co.nz (Sarah Watt)

Even if some scenes resonate less than others, the overall impact of Waru is stunning and it is impossible not to be moved and impressed in equal measure.

Even if some scenes resonate less than others, the overall impact of Waru is stunning and it is impossible not to be moved and impressed in equal measure. Hide
NewsHub (Kate Rodger)

Waru is confronting, thick with grief, rage, a guilty impotence and a tormented desperation.

Waru is confronting, thick with grief, rage, a guilty impotence and a tormented desperation. Hide
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

Compelling, often surprisingly funny, indelibly moving and occasionally jaw-droppingly brilliant.

Compelling, often surprisingly funny, indelibly moving and occasionally jaw-droppingly brilliant. Hide
NZ Herald (Dominic Corry)

Waru stands a sturdy testament to the way film can generate resonant art from difficult subject matter. All New Zealanders should see it.

Waru stands a sturdy testament to the way film can generate resonant art from difficult subject matter. All New Zealanders should see it. Hide

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