"To date, old New Zealand has been portrayed in cinema as a dark and cold land of deep foreboding; the final frontier, a savage place of no return.

My aim was to show ancient Aotearoa as a green, and heat filled land full of rich terrain, deep tropical forests without cold rain. And of course a determined people at work within them. Rather than the landscape playing its deadly game with the inhabitants it is the inhabitants who despite the landscape possess the ability to engage in it.

Our story centers around a single fifty-foot object, which has next to no earthly business moving inside a forest or down the slant of a hill. This waka or war canoe is not a prop that we hired, rather it comes from my own Marae at Kaiaua inside the Hauraki gulf. Having grown up in and around this waka and experiencing a raft of events while paddling inside it, I suppose it was inevitable that I would one day want to write a story about Kotuiti Tuarua (name of war canoe).

The concept of portaging canoes across land is an ancient one that took place wherever bodies of water ceased and the will and determination of the people was present. A water vessel being moved by a body of men across the land was for me a great image, physical feat and premise for a story.

I could not have written this story without knowing or being a part of our waka and our Marae. Further to that, the people of the film who move the waka also belong to the waka. They are my family and friends from our Marae or from other waka of Tainui whom Kotuiti affiliates to.

In a sense, Taua the short film, is basically what we came out with when we all went into the Waitakere Forest for 5 days.

The cinematic style is based on one that allows for classic composition on 35mm wide screen as well as a documentary type feel which captures and observes the action. The camera is positioned both inside and outside the war canoe to let us engage with the characters and their different rolls within the war party. there is also the use of the steady cam which helps us feel the momentum and speed of the waka and the characters.

Despite Maori being great poets and orators this film has no dialogue. Which in terms of showcasing character with the eloquence and command of the old language is a pity but for the premise of this short film is very apt.

There is no dialogue throughout the film as the war party is doing its utmost to move through the bush in silence. The sticks serve not only as a device of control, not only as a strong visual aid for the audience, but also a means by which all men keep focused and silent. Decisions are made by the characters simple need to return home as quickly and as quietly as possible.Depending on one’s knowledge there are also other connotations to the use of sticks or biting down on wood as a ritual in Maori warfare as well (whakangau pae).

There is also no use of western instruments throughout the film. Every note of music or rhythm is produced by authentic Maori instruments.

The saying goes ‘short film short budget’. A cultural epic however short can not feasibly take place in small scale. My idea for the film was to show people of different builds, ages and natures forming the war party. This required great effort and support. Just as the waka is 56 ft in length there are also a number of different locations which took a huge amount of effort and resources to reach and a complete cast of almost 100 people.

The volume creates the atmosphere but the story itself revolves around our four main characters.

The locations, number of people and action is hoped to create a story that is sensory rich and character driven. The characters actions are based on their role in the war party and what they want.

My aim was to create a sensory rich window into an aspect of an ancient Maori world where an act of compassion speaks to the true value of leadership, whether past or present."

Naku iti nei

Tearepa Kahi


Technical Info: 
Colour, 35 mm, 1:2.35, Dolby Digital
Production Year: 
Production Company: 
Kura Films
2007 - New Zealand International Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, National Geographic All Roads Film Festival, ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival.
Sales Agent: 
NZ Film

Key Roles

Exec. Producer

Key Cast

Key Crew

Director of Photography
Rhys Duncan
Tearepa Kahi
Production Designer
Rewi Spraggon