Whina is a film of great merit and marks a coming of age of Māori cinema. There is no special pleading; this simply takes the story of a great woman leader onto the world stage with charm and certainty. It solves the difficult task of compressing a long life into 90 minutes by using the land march as a frame from which to open the photographic album. The scripting and the acting are skilful enough to make often brief scenes engrossing, with some lovely cameos of people like Sir Apirana Ngata. The Māori/English mix is superb and both languages are carefully spoken. The photography is absorbing, with often a painterly texture and the music score one of the best.
It looked like there was investment from international production companies and their presence has been a benign one, insisting perhaps that this is not just a local story but an international story for an international audience, signalling that indigenous cultures have become mainstream rather than marginal romances.
It also becomes liberating, for Pākeha can be relieved of a burden of guilt in the matter of factness of the historical canon. For the ability to recreate and tell these facts and the knowledge that they will be heard creates cultural certainty. This is not then a story of loss even though loss is at its centre. Much cultural work has taken place previously to make this moment possible and there is a sense of Māori filmmaking tipuna overlooking and supporting this instant classic. Cultural work can often be ahead of political work and this film validates the Matike Mai framework of constitutional change and the liberation it could bring.
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