Rain of the Children
A woman walks between the worlds of the living and the dead in search of her lost children.
Vincent Ward weaves drama with documentary to unravel the extraordinary story of Puhi, the Tuhoe woman who welcomed the young filmmaker into her home in 1978. Ward made the observational film In Spring One Plants Alone about Puhi’s day-to-day life in the remote Urewera Ranges. By then almost 80, she was obsessively caring for her schizophrenic adult son Niki, whose violent fits terrified her. In this new cinema feature Ward sets out to unravel the mystery that has haunted him for 30 years: Who was Puhi?
And why was she so obsessed with this last remaining son?
Using his relationship with Puhi as the framework to explore her life, he finds a woman of extraordinary fortitude who, at the age of 12, was chosen by the great Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana to marry his son, Whatu. Rua gave her the name, Puhi (“special one”). At 14, she had her first baby while hiding in the bush, having escaped from the 1916 police raid on Rua’s community at Maungapohatu, where she witnessed the arrest of Rua and Whatu and the killing of Toko, Rua’s other son, said to be her lover.
She would go on to have 13 more children. But by the time Ward made his initial film, there were few signs of what had become of them. He finds out how the loss of her children affected the course of her life. The tragedies she lived through were so powerful that some, including her, believed she was cursed.
After a tumultuous second marriage and the manslaughter of her third husband, Puhi was left with her dependant son, Niki. She dedicated herself to this man-child, trying to protect him at all costs, even from beyond the grave.
This is Ward’s search for the truth of a woman who has remained a touchstone for him throughout his life.