Issue date: 
Friday, 30 August 2019

Incredible actress and activist, Yara Shahidi has been added to The Power of Inclusion summit along with programme details. She joins over 35 international and local history makers from the entertainment industry and beyond, at this pivotal event in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand on 3 and 4 October 2019.

Shahidi came to attention in her breakout role in the Golden Globe nominated TV series Black-ish and then landed a starring role in the spinoff Grown-ish, which has been greenlit for season 3. Lauded for her activism and advocacy, she founded Eighteen x 18, an education platform focused on providing information and resources to new voters across the country. The young star created Yara’s Club in partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership Schools in NYC. She served as a spokesperson for DoSomething.Org and 3M’s STEM campaign, which raised funds for classrooms in need of science and tech resources, and worked with the Obama White House around STEM initiatives.

Shahidi is an advocate for women’s issues, including diversity in media, girls’ education, and has worked with the United Nations Girl Up on global initiatives. Her work has been spotlighted in the New York Times, TIME Magazine’s annual 30 Most Influential Teens list, and Forbes 30 Under 30. She recently appeared on the cover of British Vogue magazine’s September issue guest edited by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex as one of the ‘Forces for Change.’

Also announced at the summit is social critic and producer Heather Rae (Academy Award nominated Frozen River), iconic New Zealand actors and creators Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok, Moana) and Oscar Kightley (Hunt for The Wilderpeople) and Heperi Mita, director of critically acclaimed Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, a documentary paying homage to his late mother, the widely regarded godmother of indigenous cinema, Merata Mita.

Full list of announced speakers to date are below

The Power of Inclusion summit will bring people together, presenting a myriad of world views and positing future action to create a more inclusive industry and world; all enveloped in the special environment that Aotearoa New Zealand and its peoples have to offer.

Programme details announced include keynotes from Shahidi, along with actor and equality advocate Magda Szubanski (Kath and Kim, Babe), history makers discussing what’s next to achieve true representation in front of and behind the camera, a panel with acclaimed indigenous practitioners sharing their stories of reclaiming cultural power through the lens, and in conversations with acclaimed creators Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zookeepers Wife, Mulan), Philippa Boyens (Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, Lovely Bones, The Hobbit) and Steven Canals (Pose).

The summit will be hosted by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI), with support from The Walt Disney Studios.

The NZFC also acknowledges The Motion Picture Association Scholarship programme, which will provide 150 tickets for people working or studying in the screen sector who are low or unwaged or belong to a community underrepresented in the screen sector. Registration for scholarship tickets closes 4 September 2019. Details here.

Full programme and final speakers to be announced. For more information including registration, please go to 


Yara Shahidi is an actress and activist, best known for her breakout role in the TV series BLACK-ISH and the spinoff GROWN-ISH, while empowering a generation of activism through her advocacy with Eighteen X 18 and Yara's Club.

Heather Rae is a film and television producer (Oscar nominated FROZEN RIVER), has an overall producing deal with Amazon Studios and works with narrative change organisation IllumiNative to foster accurate and authentic representation of Native and Indigenous people.

Rachel House (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mutunga) is an actor and director, celebrated for her roles in WHALE RIDER, THOR: RAGNAROK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE and MOANA and for her work as a director in both theatre and screen.

Oscar Kightley is a Samoan born writer, actor and director who grew up in New Zealand and has created critically acclaimed award-winning work for the stage, small and big screens including acting roles in HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, MOANA and SIONE’S WEDDING which he co-wrote 

Heperi Mita (Ngāti Pikiao) is director of the acclaimed documentary MERATA: HOW MUM DECOLONISED THE SCREEN, an intimate portrait of New Zealand filmmaking icon, international champion of indigenous cinema and his mother, Merata Mita.


Rt Hon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the 40th and current Prime Minister of New Zealand and the world’s youngest female head of government.

Niki Caro is a multi award-winning New Zealand film director and screenwriter whose credits include MULAN, THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE, NORTH COUNTRY and WHALE RIDER.

Magda Szubanski AO is a celebrated actor, producer and best-selling author, and was ‘The Most Talked About Person’ in 2017 for her crucial role in advocating for marriage equality Australia.

Steven Canals is the creator, executive producer, writer and director of the history making Emmy and Golden Globe nominated and Peabody Award winning series POSE, which has the largest cast of transgender actors in TV history and is acclaimed for its representational storytelling.

Tilane Jones leads Ava DuVernay’s grass-roots film collective ARRAY as President, having worked with DuVernay for over ten years and earning film credits that include Oscar nominated and four-time Emmy winner 13TH and Oscar nominated SELMA.

Osnat Shurer is the Academy Award®-nominated Producer of MOANA who created the film’s Oceanic Story Trust, a team of Pasifika consultants and collaborators on the film, and previously lead Pixar Animation Studios short film group.

Rachel House (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mutunga) is an actor and director, celebrated for her roles in WHALE RIDER, THOR: RAGNAROK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE and MOANA and for her work as a director in both theatre and screen.

Franklin Leonard, American film executive and founder of The Black List, a yearly publication featuring Hollywood's most popular unproduced screenplays.

Philippa Boyens is an Academy Award®-winning New Zealand writer of THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy and co- producer and writer of KING KONG, THE HOBBIT Trilogy and THE LOVELY BONES.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith is the founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California.

Kirsten Schaffer is Executive Director of Women in Film, Los Angeles and has been instrumental in the launching of industry game changer ReFrame, an initiative to advance inclusivity and gender equity.

Madeleine Sami is an accomplished actor, writer and director having done all three for the hit film THE BREAKER UPPERERS with Jackie van Beek, has starred in the feature WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and created critically acclaimed TV series SUPER CITY.

Jackie van Beek is an award-winning actor, writer and director whose directing credits include films THE INLAND ROAD and THE BREAKER UPPERERS (with Madeleine Sami) and TV series WELLINGTON PARANORMAL (NZ) and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (US).

Kerry Warkia (Papua New Guinean Tolai/Scottish) is a producer who has been at the forefront of some of New Zealand’s most innovative content for film, television and web, including ground-breaking feature films WARU and VAI.

Kiel McNaughton (Māori Ngāti Māhanga/Chinese/Pākehā) is a director and producer of diverse and innovative narrative content, including ground-breaking feature films WARU and VAI which he produced.

Maria Giese is an award-winning feature film director who, in 2015, became the person that instigated the biggest industry-wide Federal investigation for women directors in Hollywood history.

Hope Dickson Leach is the award-winning writer-director of THE LEVELLING and co-founded Raising Films, a campaigning community for parent and carers in the screen industries.

Alice Snedden is a writer, comedian and improvisor with a string of top New Zealand TV credits to her name and one half of the popular podcast, Boners of the Heart.

Benjamin Law is an Australian journalist, columnist and screenwriter, who adapted his book THE FAMILY LAW into a critically-acclaimed and award-winning comedy series.

and introducing rising star Ana Scotney (Ngāti Tāwhaki), who made her feature film acting debut in THE BREAKER UPPERERS and is a film and award-winning theatre maker.

Last updated: 
Friday, 30 August 2019