Waru: The Kiwi film "born out of heartache, love and passion to protect our children", makes its international bow
A Kiwi movie that shines a light on our country's appalling rates of child abuse has received a warm reception on its international debut at the Toronto Film Festival.
Featuring eight different stories, written and directed by nine Maori women, all thematically linked by the death of a boy, Waru played to a near-packed audience on Sunday evening in Canada.
Kerry Warkia, who was joined at the screening by her co-producer Kiel McNaughton and eight of the nine filmmakers, said it was an incredible experience to have a "full room and such an engaged audience".
"It's nice that the film sits with people after it has done."
Warkia told the multi-cultural crowd that Waru was "born out of heartache, love and passion to protect our children. It was created with a desire to challenge perceptions and to start conversations."
During the brief question-and-answer session after the screening ,the producers and filmmakers revealed how they all came together on Waiheke Island for five days to work out the scripts, the rules each filmmaker had to abide by (each vignette had to be 10 minutes long, be a continuous shot, and be focused around the theme of child abuse) and that one particularly obnoxious character was based on a person "who reads a wonderful segment after the TV news".
They also lamented the fact that there hadn't been a feature film directed by a Maori woman for more than three decades and that only one of their number had as a "professional drama director" in the past year.
Waru received another boost over the weekend with an article in Hollywood industry magazine Variety. It quoted Warkia as saying that, "In New Zealand, we're told it's a Maori problem, and when a child is killed the mother is always vilified,. We felt it was time to hear from Maori women about this issue."
Two more public screenings are scheduled – on Wednesday and this coming Sunday New Zealand time. Fellow Kiwi feature Human Traces had its public debut later on Sunday night in Toronto, while short film Waiting made its bow on Friday.
New Zealand films are well-regarded at the prestigious Toronto festival. Whale Rider won the audience award there in 2002.