Merata Mita’s seminal film, Mauri, has been selected to screen In Competition in the Venice Classics section of the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Venice will be the World Premiere of the newly re-mastered film.
Heperi Mita, Merata’s son and director of Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, said, “On behalf of the Mita family it is a tremendous honour to have Mauri included in the Venice Classics Competition.
When Mauri was released in 1988 no one could have predicted that more than 30 years later the film would still stand alone as the only feature film written and directed by a Māori woman.
When contextualised in this way, the significance of Mauri intensifies, and its inclusion within this prestigious programme is validation of Mauri’s place in cinema history.
But at a personal level for our family, this invitation represents the vindication of our mother’s struggle to break through the barriers of prejudice.
And we hope that the ongoing recognition of her work may inspire others to continue that struggle.”
The 1988 film was recently digitised at Sir Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post in Wellington, New Zealand with the 35mm Interpositive scanned on an Arri film scanner at 2K resolution. Following that, the film went through a stabilization and de-flicker process before a number of restoration tools were used for grain and noise reduction. The process, including the creation of a 2K DCP were overseen by the film’s original cinematographer.
NZFC CEO Annabelle Sheehan said, “How wonderful that the work of Merata is being recognised and celebrated at this prestigious festival. Her work is a shining light for New Zealand filmmakers and for First Nation filmmakers everywhere.”
Mauri is the story of Rewi, played by Anzac Wallace (Utu), a man whose haunted past threatens to derail his future. Set among the colourful characters in Te Mata, a once thriving settlement with a now dwindling population, a tight-knit community develops – one that doesn’t readily accept outsiders. As Rewi’s life and lies entwine with those around him – particularly two women – he is forced to become part of this community.
The crew were largely Māori and included interns from the Hawkes Bay area where the film was shot. Iconic artist Ralph Hotere was the production designer, and well-known Māori activist, Eva Rickard, played kuia, Kara.
The New Zealand Film Commission’s digitisation programme has been running since 2014 with 58 feature films and 20 shorts digitised to date. Most of these films are currently available to view in New Zealand and Australia via the NZFC’s transactional video-on-demand platform, NZ Film On Demand.
Founded in 1932, The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world. The 76th Venice Film Festival runs from 28 August to 7 September at the historic Lido Cinema. The last time New Zealand had films screen in the festival was in 2015 with A Flickering Truth and Free In Deed.