Journey to Ihipa
When a young soldier dies during WWII, extended Māori family protect the bloodline by taking his baby son from his European mother.
His mother spends her whole adult life hoping her son will return to his Māori home, but when he finally does, the reconciliation is not what she had imagined.
Director’s Notes - Nancy Brunning
In 2004 I read an early draft of Journey to Ihipa. I said to myself, if I were a filmmaker, I’d want to direct this one. I had directed for theatre before but never for film, and what was important to me at the time was to learn more about directing for theatre rather than film – so in my head, Journey was going to be made by someone else, not me. Journey became my first film project in 2007 –its name has been synonymous to the experience I have had since it was confirmed as the script for us to make. We have been able to make a short film that does not expect us to explain the Māori culture or what it means to be Māori. It is a story that gives you the opportunity to be in an unfamiliar environment as an observer watching a personal situation unfold before you; or watch a scenario unfold before you that may resonate with your own personal experience, maybe through a character, through the situation or story. Although the event is a tangi (funeral), the story is for the living but about hope that survives loss, isolation and rejection and that hope allows you, to protect or defend, accept or deny, to continue or forgive. These are simple emotions played out in a complex situation where formality cannot be dropped – or where informality is too much. What ever way you look at it, the bottom line is – hope never stops even when all hope for you is lost.
I would like to thank the people of Ruatahuna for allowing us to shoot Journey with you all. You fed us and warmed us and allowed us to be the arty-fartys wehave chosen to be without judgment or limitations. Thank you all so much for giving us an experience, our involvement in the community informed and inspired the direction of journey as a film and I am forever grateful that you opened the doors to us. I would also like to thank our small but perfectly formed cast and crew for taking on a new environment, a humble story and respecting everyone who had helped towards its completion throughout, you contributed to a process that required determination, openness and ownership and I am grateful to you all for accepting the challenge. A personal thanks to Sima Urale for offering me the time and knowledge to prepare for the short and to Peter Burger for giving me onset training. Both of you have specific styles and both of you let me in to your process – I came to you for help and you both gave me the confidence to start and keep going; thank you for your patience and generosity. Makerita Urale; Peti Nohotima and Catherine Fitzgerald have been the backbone of this production and bare the weight of all responsibility expected of this film, thank you all for standing with us on this film, you deal with ego’s and policy, culture and creative differences every day but still manage to laugh, it has been humbling to know how far you will go with a project you believe in and hope that even after years you’ll be able to look at this work and feel proud of it, it has been a journey that I am glad I have travelled; beside you guys.
Being allowed into the head of writer Vicki-Anne Heikell has been a nightmare for her I’m sure, but a gift for myself and Makerita as first time film makers. For us, the training we have had in Māori and Pacific theatre has always been about the writer being the most important element in story-telling. Without writers we have no story to interpret, for Māori, the history of our writers has been that they are the ones who have kept Māori language, history and whakapapa (genealogy) alive through whaikorero (formal speeches), music composition, and oral history. Working with Vicki-Anne has allowed us the opportunity to continue to acknowledge that philosophy and to maintain our values towards the writer’s contribution towards works offered for public consumption. Vicki-Anne’s writing style challenged us and inspired us to find ways of working for the story she created; we also had to find a way to work with the Ruatahuna home people where we shot this film – we needed to bring two worlds together in a way that would honour the community, the crew and the writing, it was a challenge that required a lot of discussion and listening but had we not done that journey would not have been the film it has grown into. Although I am asked to put myself before the writer in this medium – I cannot agree that the director has made this film, the script of Journey came from a place that I would never have understood without constant discussion with Vicki-Anne, the specificity in the writing was there before I got involved, and my job was to interpret that to the best of my ability - nga mihi aroha, nga mihi mahana ki a koe e Vicki-Anne for being brave, open and trusting in our interpretation of Journey to Ihipa.