The New Zealand Maori culture isn’t often seen on the big screen, so when I read about Mahana (The Patriarch) I was interested and intrigued, more so when I saw that it is directed by Lee Tamahori, who previously directed the Bond feature, Die Another Day.
This is the story of the Mahana family in the 1960s, led by the Grandfather (Temuera Morrison) with tradition, respect and history flowed down throughout the family. One boy, Simeon (Akuhata Keefe), quickly stands out and questions the rules and limitations his Grandfather sets causing cracks in the relationship of this family.
The movie opens to the Grandmother, Ramona (Nancy Brunning), rocking back and forth in her rocking chair with the Grandfather standing alongside her, waiting. We are quickly thrown across to the fast-paced environment of the rest of the family, all getting ready and scrambling to get out of the door in time. When they arrive in their convoy of cars at the Grandparents house they line up outside and are checked for their attire, ensuring it is suitable for a funeral they are about to attend.
They head off in the convoy of cars to the funeral, when they see the Poata family on the opposite side of the treeline. The Grandfather driving the lead car puts his foot down and the situation develops into a race between rival families to the funeral, to discuss the contract for sheep shearing that the son of the deceased has taken on.
Sheep shearing is the primary business of the Mahana family, taking on a number of contracts in the area as they are renowned for their fast and good quality sheep shearing. Intertwined within this story of the rivalry between two families and the development of the Mahana family is the relationship between Simeon and one of the Poata girls, Poppy (Yvonne Porter). Throughout this movie we see how the Mahana family adapt and develop to the changes in society as well as the arguments and fights they get into.
With a largely unknown cast, it is good to be able to watch a film without thinking at the back of your mind “that’s the person from that movie”. The enthusiasm and dedication to their characters resonates throughout the movie.
Scatted all the way through the movie are references to western movies, whether it be quotes from western movie characters or a scene within a cinema where they watch a western, it is clear that the writer, John Collee is sending a message for where his passions lie.
Being able to see and experience on screen the 1960’s Maori culture and having an insight into this is something rarely seen, so it is refreshing to see a very different style of movie. It’s not a movie I could see having a successful release in the UK, but it’s a movie with a lot of passion and enthusiasm.