DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
Director - Lee Tamahori - 2016

"Dirty gem"
Kiwi director of James Bond uses family violence as an allegory of colonial violence, in an epic Maori tale of love and oppression

Set in the 1960s, Mahana presents Temuera Morrison as the ruthless Maori patriarch Tamahina (pictured above) of the Mahana family somewhere in the countryside of New Zealand – the film director himself is of Maori ancestry. Tamahina Mahana has firm control over his children, grandchildren and in-laws, often exercising his power through threats, verbal and physical abuse. He claims that they own him everything, and he often boasts his accomplishments in firmly establishing his well-to-do family of sheep shearers. Most in his relatives live in fear of the patriarch, and they prefer to shy away from confrontation. They are as passive and sheepish as the animals that they shear.

Grandfather Tamihana Mahana does not tolerate any affronts, and all members must obey and agree with him at all occasions. He promptly beats up his grandchild Simeon (Akuhata Keefe) because he challenged his grandfather’s knowledge that there are no films about religion. Simeon’s father Joshua Mahana (Regan Taylor, who looks like a Maori George Clooney) steps him and beats his own father in defence of his son. As a consequence, grandfather evicts Joshua, his wife and children (including Simeon) from his household and disinherits them.

It is then revealed that grandfather Tamahina obtained his wealth through violence and deceit. He raped his wife Ramona (Nancy Brunning) when she was engaged to a man in another family, and he does it in her own house. She became pregnant and therefore Tamihana Mahana gained control over the property and the estate that he now owns.

Grandfather Tamihana’s behaviour is similar to European colonisers in New Zealand and elsewhere: they robbed the land from its owners through deceit, raped the local women and perpetuated their power through brutal and unrelenting oppression. Simeon himself reminds a judge during a school visit to a court that the Maori could never defend themselves properly, as they are not even allowed to use their language in the precinct.

The film also delves with female powerlessness and the endurance of love. Ramona explains that she never had any opportunity to break out of the violence imposed on her, and yet she never stopped loving the man to whom she was originally engaged. Her immortal passion is tantamount to the feeling that Maoris have towards their land, and how they have consistently resisted the influence from their colonisers, or at times integrated it with their culture.

The acting in Tamahori’s film is strong and convincing, the script is gripping and the photography is mostly bright, colourful and vibrant. A sequence where grandmother Ramona sings in Maori surrounded by bees in an apiary beautifully epitomises theanguish and pain of being trapped by a man whom she hates.

On the surface. Mahana is a tearjerker and an aesthetically conservative film, with little difference from most mainstream movies. These inflammatory allegories of colonialism and male dominance, however, make the movie a powerful and universal political statement.

Mahana debuted on February 13th at the 66th Berlinale. DMovies is live in Berlin at the event sweeping the dirt from under the red carpet.



"Dirty gem"

By Victor Fraga - 13-02-2016

By Victor Fraga - 13-02-2016

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than 15 years of involvement i...

DMovies Poll

Do/would you go to the cinema in order to watch documentaries?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

François Ozon probably doesn’t get much sleep. At [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Time flies by! DMovies was launched in February [Read More...]
American novelist Dennis Cooper’s cinematic debut feels like [Read More...]
It’s 2018, and neoliberalism is steadily morphing into [Read More...]
On the occasion of the UK release of [Read More...]

Read More

On Body and Soul (Testről és lélekről)

Ildikó Enyedi
2017

Jeremy Clarke - 19-09-2017

See you in my dreams! Golden Bear winner is an oneiric romance set against the unlikely backdrop of an abattoir - out in cinemas this week [Read More...]

Five dirty picks from the Raindance Film Festival

 

Victor Fraga - 18-09-2017

Check out top five recommendations for the Raindance Film Festival, one of the largest showcases for independent cinema in the world, starting this week in London [Read More...]

The Road Movie

Dmitrii Kalashnikov
2017

Victor Fraga - 14-09-2017

This jaw-dropping documentary entirely filmed from dashcams on Russian cars provides a shocking, bleak and despondent portrait of the largest country in the world - at Hot Docs London [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *