Following on from the box office and festival success of Waru, the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) is pleased to confirm production funding of Vai, from Waru producers Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton of Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions.
Similar in style to Waru, Vai will connect eight stories about the journey of empowerment through culture, over the lifetime of one woman, Vai.
The film will be written and directed by ‘Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Amberley Jo Aumua, Becs Arahanga, Dianna Fuemana, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Mīria George, Matasila Freshwater and Sharon Whippy with Nicole Whippy. Each has an indigenous ancestral connection to one of seven countries in the South Pacific: Aotearoa, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, and Niue. Filming will take place on each Island.
NZFC CEO, Annabelle Sheehan, said “The cinematic and emotional impact of Waru confirms the enormous storytelling power of women and the NZFC is delighted to be supporting Vai. We know that an ever-growing wave of women filmmakers will expand the potential of cinema, telling new stories which connect us, by our diverse culture, throughout the globe.”
Sheehan said the producers developed the idea for Vai to be inclusive of many islands, traditions, cultures and people and represent different ideas and perspectives of a pacific woman’s life.
“Our ultimate goal with Vai is to again give voice to an underrepresented community and spark conversation about the empowerment of women through culture.” Warkia and McNaughton also said each of the directors will bring a unique and distinctive perspective to the film and were selected from over 65 Pasifika female writers and directors.
Waru is a feature film made up of eight 10-minute short films each written and directed by Māori women filmmakers. The film premiered to sold out houses at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival. It had its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017, and has since screened in numerous international film festivals. Waru remained in New Zealand cinemas for over 20 weeks, with a cumulative box office of almost $400K. In
April this year, the nine writer and directors were recipients of the NZFC’s inaugural Maori Screen Excellence Award.
Currently in pre-production, filming of Vai will commence in July. Vai will be released in New Zealand and Australia in 2019 by Vendetta Films, the distributors of Waru.