Stuff's Short Film Season: Taua

Welcome to the second instalment of Stuff's short film season. Today we're proud to screen Tearepa Kahi's visually stunning short, Taua - War Party.

Set in the dense Waitakere bush, the film follows a war party that has abducted an enemy leader and bound him to the bow of their war canoe.

The canoe is being towed through the forest, driven by a merciless chief in a bid to escape pursuers and return home safely with their trophy.

Two young boys sit at the stern, serving as bailers of water to the men.  On the desperate and gruelling journey, every man is in need of water, even the unknown prisoner...

Earlier this year, Christchurch-raised Kahi has shot his first feature film with producer Quinton Hita, Mt Zion, featuring Stan Walker set to be released next February.

We have caught up with Kahi and asked him five questions:

Why did you pick this story? What is it about?

One of the few benefits of top and tailing in the bed with my brother whilst growing up were the bedtime stories courtesy of my father.

Many seeds were planted during that time. A story that stuck in my head was about the portaging of the waka Tainui across Otaahuhu.

I was walking a bush track in the Waitakere Ranges one day and thought, 'something is moving through this forest. What is it?' 

There was only one answer really, Kotuiti Tuarua - the 54 foot War Canoe from my Marae in Kaiaua - Ngaati Paoa.

Elements converge in Taua as our waka heads deeper into the unknown. A connection between strangers, bound to opposite ends of the waka, slowly develops. The story details an act of courage between strangers during war. 

Taua is about the difference we can have on others whether we know them or not, whether we are big or small.

I made Taua as a visual bedtime story for my son.

What is your favourite memory of this film?

On our third day we got washed off the Opanuku Pipeline Hill. We erected an extra marquee but were ordered to take it down due to strict DOC regulations. Time was disappearing, the rain was falling and the water was rising.

The cast picked up a guitar and started singing. We all got warm singing to Fat Freddy's Drop. We improvised and headed to another part of the bush where we shot our whole day under the cover of forest canopy in three hours. Got back to base in time for a hot dinner. It was a good day.

What were the greatest challenges in making this particular film?

The greatest challenge was convincing my elders and my Marae to allow me the use of our waka. The second challenge was to take it where no waka had gone before -- Waitakere Ranges. And thirdly, to convince our big cast and crew that I wasn't crazy. I once dabbled in acting. I was very convincing.

What do you like about short films?

There's a huge challenge that comes with the short film form; to tell a satisfying story within a short amount of screen time. I'm a sucker for challenges and I still believe a worthy story and clear direction will get you over the mountain every time.

How did this film lead on to your feature film?

Completing a short film which goes on to have a big screen life gives you confidence and belief. These are the corner-stones needed to build the house of any feature film.

Taua told our team that we could build a strong visual story and create a glimpse into a unique world. It also told me, that the more time we take building a story, the better it will get. Mt. Zion has been a long time coming, and come the 6th of February, 2013, it will be everywhere.