A movie by two Pakeha has been voted the best short film by audiences at a Maori film festival.
INC'd was co-written by Darren Simmonds, who grew up in Johannesburg, and Neil Durrant, who is from England. Both now live in Wanaka.
It premiered at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival, which screened 50 films at Kahungunu Marae in Nuhaka, northern Hawke's Bay.
The film's lead, Rob Mokoraka, was also awarded best actor in the festival.
INC'd tells the fictional story of a Sydney-based lawyer who returns to New Zealand for his father's funeral. He is challenged by his uncle to reconcile his corporate success with his Maori heritage, and gets a ta moko facial tattoo.
His colleagues are affronted by his changed look and do not understand its significance.
He moves home, where he reconciles with his estranged daughter.
Writer and director Simmonds has lived in New Zealand for 16 years and is married to a Ngai Tahu woman. He said this connection drew him to learn about Maori culture, of which ta moko is a prominent symbol.
"Putting a moko on your face is the ultimate form of self-expression."
As a Pakeha telling a Maori story, Simmonds was advised by Mokoraka to prepare for an ambivalent response from the Maori community.
"We realised we had to get this right," he said. "It was nice to see we did.
"People came up and said thank you for telling our story."
The movie was filmed at Murihiku Marae in Invercargill, where Simmonds and his crew collaborated with kaumatua, a ta moko designer and the actors to ensure the story rang true.
"For the scene where the main character's uncle challenges him, we had written a whole different speech. When we got there, the actors said this was not necessarily what would be said.
"They quoted a Maori proverb, which was what we used."
- The Dominion Post