Red carpet shines for dark film

SIMON DAY
Last updated 20:24 26/06/2013
Antonia Prebble and Whirimako Black
PETER MEECHAM/ Fairfax NZ
RED CARPET DELIGHT: Antonia Prebble and Whirimako Black share a laugh at the premiere of White Lies.

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Tonight the cast of White Lies joined politicians and locals from the Urewera mountains on the red carpet for the opening of the film in Auckland.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and novelist Witi Ihimaera mingled with the stars of the small screen at the opening at  Sylvia Park last night.

A host of Shortland Street actors, including Angela Bloomfield and Shavaughn Ruakere, the cast of The Mighty Johnsons and director Oliver Driver sashayed down the red carpet along with Kiwi cabaret icon Mika.

The film's lead actress, Antonia Prebble, also wowed the crowd in a dress by John Zimmerman.

Adapted from a largely unknown novella by Ihimaera, the film brings together the South Pacific Pictures production team with Mexican director Dana Rotberg.

Rotberg was inspired to move halfway across the world by the company's previous film, another Ihimaera story, Whale Rider.

Starring Prebble, Rachel House and first time actress Whirimako Black, White Lies tells the story of two different worlds of colonial New Zealand in the early 20th Century.

One set and shot in the tiny town of Ruatahuna in the heart of Te Urewera is a Maori community fighting for their culture and identity against violent Pakeha oppression. Here, Paraiti, played by Black, looks after her people and her traditions as a medicine woman.

The second is a developed European settlement, where Prebble's character Rebecca Vickers is a rich white woman with a secret. The two worlds soon collide.

More than 80 per cent of the film is in te reo Maori, which made acting debutant Black feel at home.

''We're often told that the Maori language is dying so for me to be able to present my language in an art form like this was a real privilege,'' she said.

It is a dark, revealing film and it took some convincing to get Prebble to take the intimidating role of Vickers.

''Dana gave me three months to decide. For the first two and a half months I was going to say no, mainly for the nudity aspect. I just didn't know if I was ready to take that leap," she said.

Twenty locals from Ruatahuna had roles in the film and many made the trip to Auckland for the premiere.

White Lies opens in cinemas tomorrow.

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