Maoriland Film Festival founder Libby Hakaraia still remembers the first time that she was transported by the magic of film, and it's an experience that she still seeks today.
The second eldest of five children, Hakaraia recalls growing up in a small Maori community where a trip to the cinema was a big outing for the family. It was a George Lucas classic that set her imagination alight when she was just, 9-years-old.
"The first film that transported me was Star Wars. I remember going to see it with my family and I’ll never forget the sense of high anticipation walking up the wide stairs of the cinema and into the darkened velvet-lined cinema. From there we were transported, mouths gaping into a 'galaxy far far away'! It was magical and at the same time very real. And I’m alway looking for that in film now," Hakaraia says.
Hakaraia is touching down this week in Sydney to attend the WINDA Film Festival, a four-day cinematic event, celebrating global Indigenous storytelling through film. Hakaraia will present the Brave New Lens series and a short called, Ka Puta Ko Au.
Passionate about giving a supportive platform to First Nations' storytellers, through both Maoriland Film Festival and other initiatives Hakaraia is able to support and bring the voice of Indigenous experience to a wider audience.
"The inspiration behind founding the Maoriland Film Festival was wanting to bring social, economic and cultural benefits to my small town of Ōtaki which is a strong Māori community, whilst at the same time own the screens and therefore give our filmmaking community the access they needed to have their films shown. We also wanted the filmmakers efforts to be celebrated and encouraged."
In the Brave New Lens series, a collection of films made by young Maori and Pacifica filmmakers, Hakaraia sees a new era of storytellers emerging with a braveness in their content and an easy grasp on digital technology that puts them in a unique position.
At a time of globalisation, marginalisation and hate speech we need to re-connect as human beings.
"These young filmmakers have largely taught themselves. Māoriland has embarked on a series of youth filmmaking workshops over the past three years to bring together youth such as these together so they can inspire and learn from each other and also be mentored by other filmmakers both in Aotearoa and internationally." she says.
The hope in curating this collection which premieres at WINDA Film Festival on Friday, is that the filmmakers will be noticed and have the opportunity to have their skills developed and be mentored further.
"Youth filmmaking is brave and often does not see the barriers to, or the technical rules around film storytelling. These are a generation of digital storytellers for whom technology is easily understood. How and what they chose to make films about is limitless." Hakaraia enthuses.
WINDA Film Festival will also feature a series of shorts that were created through a unique filmmaking challenge set forth by both Hakaraia and Co-Founder of WINDA, Pauline Clague - Native Slam I + II - where over 20 First Nations filmmakers were tasked with producing a short (5-10 min length) film in teams in just 72 hours.
Hakaraia will present Ka Puta Ko Au on behalf of the filmmakers who tell the story of a woman who travels through enemy territory to save her people. Representation of women in Indigenous film may be different from that which we see in Western storytelling features says Hakarai. "The key creators of this film will have a view on their story. But for me as a Māori woman I see Indigenous women in all areas of language and storytelling whether as mothers, grandmothers, teachers or filmmakers."
But for me as a Māori woman I see Indigenous women in all areas of language and storytelling whether as mothers, grandmothers, teachers or filmmakers.
Hakaraia says that the Maori film industry is still in its relative infancy in terms of resourcing, though through Maori Television, the industry has been able to upskill and provide economic support for established and emerging storytellers. "These storytellers have then channelled these resources into making films. Over the past 20 plus years Māori film has been widely acclaimed and continues to attract international attention and this is now moving those holding the power and the purse to support Māori endeavours. We’ll see what happens here but for now, with the support of our Indigenous filmmaking community worldwide, Māori will continue to aim for the stars with their filmmaking!"
Hakaraia feels that festivals such as WINDA are vital in the current state of global society. "Why Indigenous film? Because of the authentic voices, the landscapes that are explored both internally and exteriorly and because you will come away transformed. And because at a time of globalisation, marginalisation and hate speech we need to re-connect as human beings."
Winda Film Festival is running this week from the 23-26 November with screenings at Event Cinemas in Sydney. For the full program guide go here.