Issue date: 
Monday, 18 March 2024

IMAGE: Producer Morgan Waru, Director Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu and writer Maddie Dai.

Kiwi film We Were Dangerous directed by Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu has won big at SXSW, with the film awarded the Special Jury Award for Filmmaking in the Narrative Feature Competition. 

Directed by Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu and written by Maddie Dai, We Were Dangerous, tells the fictional story of Nellie (Erana James), Lou (Nathalie Morris) and Daisy (Manaia Hall) who attend an institution for delinquent girls on an isolated island. The trio rail against the system, finding strength in their friendship. But this is challenged when the school’s matron (Rima Te Wiata) divides them.

Stewart-Te Whiu said of the win: “A huge thank you to the jury and SXSW for recognising We Were Dangerous. I was not expecting this, and seriously: I am shooketh. It's such a privilege to tell stories, especially stories like this one, and I cannot wait to share this film with the rest of the world.”

The film premiered at the festival to packed screenings with David Ehrlich of INDIE WIRE  saying "The film's immaculate cast make it possible to feel as if we've known these girls for years, and it's a testament to their lived-in performances that Nellie and Louisa are never reduced to attitudes or archetypes”. Deadline’s Damon Wise said “its emotional heft is surprisingly indelible”.

The Narrative Feature Competition Jury was made up of three Jurors including Jake Coyle, film writer and critic, The Associated Press; Robert Daniels, Associate Editor,; Joanna Robinson, podcaster and cultural critic, The Ringer who selected the Narrative Feature Jury Award and the Narrative Feature Special Jury Awards. When given the option to recognise films beyond the Narrative Feature Competition Jury Award Winner, they chose to also recognise Josephine Stewart Te-Whiu.

In awarding the prize the Jury stated,  “We Were Dangerous, a spirited and affecting tale of female rebellion at a 1950s New Zealand reform institution for so-called delinquent girls, heralds the arrival of an exciting new filmmaking talent in Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu. Her feature film directorial debut confronts a sobering and all-too-relevant history with a sly sense of absurdity and the camaraderie of its three young leads, played by Erana James, Nathalie Morris and Manaia Hall.”

This award adds to Stewart-Te Whiu’s impressive resume including the Māori Screen Excellence Award from the New Zealand Film Commission alongside her fellow Waru filmmakers in 2018 and Best Short for When We Were Kids (2020) at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Produced by Morgan Waru and Polly Fryer the film stars Erana James, Nathalie Morris, new discovery Manaia Hall and Rima Te Wiata. Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi for Piki Films, Bill Way, Elliott Whitton for Fit Via Vi and Emily Gotto are Executive Producers. We Were Dangerous was shot on location in the South Island of New Zealand. Filming on Ōtamahua Island was done with the support of Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke. 

We Were Dangerous was made with investment from the New Zealand Film Commission, the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production Grant, Fit Via Vi, Screen CanterburyNZ, Department of Post, Native Audio, and Kiwibank, the film will be distributed in New Zealand by Madman and Piki Films, and by Madman in Australia. Sales by WME Independent. 

Last updated: 
Monday, 18 March 2024