When I heard that Waru was a collaborative creation of eight Maori wahine (women) sharing their stories of mother and child relationships in Aotearoa (New Zealand), I was inspired and moved to support and witness their voice and this kaupapa (movement).
Waru is a collection of eight short films, all directed by eight Maori women, with a different cast featuring in each film. Each story is linked by a tangi (funeral) of the death of a young boy.
Unfortunately, it is rare that I have come across multiple indigenous women sharing stories and speaking of family struggles from their perspective. And excitingly, Waru featured recently at Toronto international film festival, allowing it to have global impact.
The opening begins with a child’s voice that effortlessly dropped me into an innocent space of witness. It reminded me of the vulnerability we go through as children dependant on the love and care of adults for survival. As the stories progress, we are invited into the lives and homes of Wahine as the nurturers and caregivers of families that are struggling financially, mentally and otherwise. Waru highlights the struggle that indigenous women have in this urbanized society where money is a massive driver in the quality of life.
As a woman myself, I was deeply saddened and impacted by the scenes of wahine being challenged to provide the simple necessities of life like food and water and trying to care for their families through the social welfare system. Not only is this financial struggle tough, Waru clearly showed how all of the emotional and mental challenges are interrelated.
Throughout the movie, I could feel the impact and presence of Maori culture and way of life being stripped by the flow on effects of colonization here in New Zealand. This is a perspective that is rarely seen or openly discussed on a New Zealand national platform.
Technically the filmmakers achieve this intimate perspective through the use of creating each film with one shot. This technique creates a connection to the story in such a way that we are not only very close to the action but in moments I felt as if I was the character. Thus I felt a strong connection to the emotion of what each woman experiences.
What inspired me about this incredibly powerful collection of short films was the creation process. Eight Maori woman directors including Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Ainsley Gardiner, Katie Wolfe, Chelsea Cohen, Renae Maihi, Paula Jones, Awanui Simich-Pene gathered in wananga to discuss and share their personal whanau (family) stories around the kaupapa of child abuse. These mana wahine and other supporting whanau shared in space as a united sisterhood to tackle this massive global issue and took their very real and personal stories to the screen.
Waru was a very talented and bold weaving of short stories where all viewers had the opportunity to receive the realness and authenticity of the collected stories. It was inspiring for such issues to be heard and not swept under the carpet in the turning wheel of today’s society. Waru was a beautifully honest and powerful collaboration.