Issue date: 
Thursday, 11 February 2021

Cornerstone will launch worldwide sales, excluding ANZ, for writers and directors James Napier Robertson and Paula Whetu Jones’ Whina (pronounced fee-nah), out of the upcoming European Film Market.

Rena Owen (The Last Witch Hunter, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Once Were Warriors) plays the eponymous role of Dame Whina Cooper, a beloved Māori matriarch who worked tirelessly to improve the rights of her people, especially women. At nearly 80-years-old Cooper became nationally revered as the ‘Mother of The Nation’ when she led the first Māori Land March over 1,000 kilometers from Te Hapua in the Far North to Wellington at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand in 1975.

James Napier Robertson (The Dark Horse) and Paula Whetu Jones (Waru) co-wrote the script with James Lucas, whose short The Phone Call won the Academy Award® for Best Live Action Short Film in 2015.

The period drama tackles such issues as traditional gender and cultural roles in New Zealand society, racism, land rights activism, female empowerment and justice and equality. For First Nation people these themes sit very much in the current zeitgeist where the rights of Indigenous people, in particular, women of color, are still at the forefront of conversation, especially in the US, as well as Australia and New Zealand. 

Through the eyes of Older Whina we look back on the formative years of this icon of New Zealand's political history as she broke gender boundaries, championed innovation, and fought for the recognition of her own culture, all the while staying true to her heart and her beliefs. Flawed yet resilient, Whina tells the story of a woman formed by tradition, compelled by innovation, and guided by an instinct for equality and justice whose legacy as the Te Whaea o te Moto (Mother of the Nation) was an inspiration to an entire country.

Cornerstone’s Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder noted,  “New Zealand is a country with a history of strong female leaders and the life of Dame Whina Cooper is one of its great legacies. Her message of unity over division is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when you have the right woman in charge. We couldn’t be more proud to bring her story to international audiences.”

Produced by Matthew Metcalfe (McLaren, Dean Spanley) and Tainui Stephens (The Dead Lands), the film also stars Miriama McDowell (The Dark Horse), as the younger Whina, Vinnie Bennett (Fast & Furious 9, Ghost in the Shell), James Rolleston (The Breaker Upperers, Boy) and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne (Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

Funded by Ingenious Media and the New Zealand Film Commission, Whina which is currently in post-production, was shot entirely on location in New Zealand, with a majority  Māori cast and crew, and will be released in Australia and New Zealand by Transmission Films. Cornerstone will be screening first footage to buyers at the EFM.

Cornerstone head to EFM coming off a very successful AFM where they sold worldwide rights to such films as the sex-comedy Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, starring two-time Academy Award® winning actress Emma Thompson, and Not Bloody Likely, the rom-com starring two-time Academy Award® nominee and BAFTA award winner Helena Bonham Carter and two-time Golden Globe nominee Pierce Brosnan.



As a leader in the global independent film community, Cornerstone provides strong curatorial direction and years of industry experience to producers, financiers, and creative storytellers. We deliver the vital link between the creative vision and the successful global exploitation of content.

Our enthusiastic and experienced team is headed by Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder who launched the company in 2015 and have devoted their careers to supporting producers and directors to bring their stories to the screen. With sales offices in London and Los Angeles, we also co-develop and produce content with our associates in Europe – X-Filme and Beta Cinema

– and in Australasia we founded distribution and production company, The Reset Collective, with our partners Genesius Pictures and Lisa Garner.

Cornerstone’s current slate includes Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, starring Academy Award winner Emma Thompson and to be directed by Sophie Hyde, Not Bloody Likely starring Helena Bonham Carter and Pierce Brosnan, Craig Roberts’ The Fantastic Flitcrofts starring Academy and BAFTA Award winner Mark Rylance, Jon Wright’s The Little People starring Hannah John-Kamen, the remake of cult classic The Changeling to be directed by Anders Engström, Mike Leigh's untitled 2021 project, as well as a trio of Sundance 2020 World Premieres including Euros Lyn’s Dream Horse starring Toni Collette and Damian Lewis; Phyllida Lloyd’s Herself starring festival breakout Clare Dunne and Sundance award winner Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker starring Golden Globe winner Elizabeth Moss and Golden Globe nominee Michael Stuhlbarg.


For 22 years, Ingenious has been at the forefront of investing in the global creative economy and in that time has raised and deployed over $10 billion.  Ingenious has been involved in the production of a diverse slate of films, including the Academy Award® winning Judy, Life of Pi, Avatar, Selma, Academy Award® nominated Carol, Brooklyn and At Eternity’s Gate, five films in the successful X-Men franchise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, breakout British hits Military Wives, Blinded by the Light, Suffragette and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as acclaimed television programmes such as The Fall, Dr. Foster and Watership Down.  Titles currently on release or coming soon include The Secrets We Keep, Honest Thief, War with Grandpa, Breaking News in Yuba County, Pixie, Dream Horse and Voyagers.  The 2020 Venice Film Festival included the premieres of Ingenious funded Roger Michell’s The Duke and Mona Fastvold’s The World to Come, which is currently on release in the US through Bleecker St.  Titles currently in production include Craig Roberts’ The Fantastic Flitcrofts starring Academy and BAFTA Award winner Mark Rylance, Jon Wright’s The Little People starring Hannah John-Kamen, and Roger Michell’s feature documentary Elizabeth.


GFC Films is an Auckland based production company responsible for over twenty-one feature films and drama series.

Recent titles for GFC Films include the AMC series The Dead Lands, a feature adaptation of Thomas Piketty's #1 NY Times Bestseller book (over 3 million copies sold) Capital in the Twenty-First Century in partnership with Canal Plus and Studio Canal and Dawn Raid, produced in conjunction with Universal Pictures.

Previous GFC drama titles include Dean Spanley, starring Peter O'Toole and Sam Neil and 6 Days, starring Mark Strong, Abbie Cornish and Jamie Bell. While feature documentary titles include Beyond the Edge, the story of the conquering of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, McLaren about Bruce McLaren (the founder of the McLaren F1 team), The Free Man, an exploration of the thrilling world of extreme mountain sports, Born Racer, about Five-time IndyCar World Champion Scott Dixon and the Ganassi racing team, and Wayne, the story of Wayne Gardner, the first Australian to win the MotoGP World Championship. 

In production, GFC Films has acquired the film rights to Mark Manson’s #1 NY Times Bestselling book (13 million copies sold) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Principal photography commences this February.

Last updated: 
Friday, 12 February 2021