I never saw my mum as a filmmaker, nor was she ever an activist in my eyes. She was always a loving mum. And as the youngest of her six kids, that was the only side of her that I really knew.
There was a lot about her 68 years of life I didn’t know, and it is within the vaults of the film archive that she tells me the story of her past.
My mum, Merata, was the first Māori woman, and first indigenous woman in the world, to write and direct a narrative feature film. She directed movies in Hollywood, interviewed Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and worked for various respected organisations around the world such as the BBC and National Geographic.
Her independent political documentaries of the ‘70s and ‘80s highlighted the injustices for Māori people in New Zealand, and often divided the country.
But the suffering of my older siblings during these times was all too real. Her drive for social justice would have to be weighed against the dangers her work would expose them to.
By weaving together films discovered within the vaults of the archives with the deep personal accounts of my older brothers and sister, a deeply intimate portrait emerges and my mother’s story reveals itself to me, and to the rest of the world, for the first time.
“Merata is far from the dry fact-relating exercises that so often pass for biographical documentaries. Instead, it’s an incredibly moving account of a determined Māori woman defying the constraints of her context, at great personal cost, to help forge of pathways for Māori, for women, and for indigenous storytellers worldwide.”
– The Spinoff
“She is a trailblazer in that regard, deserving to be talked about alongside Spike Lee, Charles Burnett and co, in terms of influence and in terms of making art within dominant power structures.”
– The Pantograph Punch
“Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is a terrific achievement. Merata deserves more than most to have her story and her work remembered, re-evaluated and celebrated.”
– Dominion Post
“Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is a loving and often revealing portrait of a seminal figure in the development of this country’s film culture.”
– The Listener