Merata Mita's Mana Waka (1937-40/1990) will be a high point of the New Zealand International Film Festival this year. In 1937, the Waikato leader Te Puea Herangi engaged cameraman RGH Manley to record the building of two waka taua (canoes), for the 1940 Waitangi centennial commemorations. Manley's footage was not printed. In 1983 Te Arikinui Dame Atairangikahu gave Nga Kaitiaki o Nga Taonga/The New Zealand Film Archive (NZFA) permission to repair and restore the nitrate negatives. Merata Mita (1942-2010) was appointed to construct a new film, and she, editor Annie Collins and NZFA founder and director the late Jonathan Dennis moved to Turangawaewae Marae to edit it. The festival will show a new print, courtesy of the Te Puea Foundation, and made possible through the Saving Frames Project, a partnership between the NZFA, Park Road Post Production and the Government of New Zealand.
There's no trailer for Mana Waka as far as I know. But this morning, as I looked for one, I found a 1997 interview with Merata Mita, made by Karin Williams for Pacific Perspectives on Hawai'i Public Television, and started viewing at Part 3 of three equally rich parts. I wept. Laughed. And was inspired. Here are the clips, with Merata talking about the importance of knowing who you are, about teaching film and demystifying technology, about her experiences of acting, about her journey to becoming a director, about stereotypes, about beleaguered women on Hollywood sets and her experiences there (she didn't want to be a Hollywood director; among other things "I just don't have the testosterone"), about colonisation, and being an activist, about her favorite of all her films. In these clips, Merata's heart, her clarity and courage, remind me all over again of how much the world's lost because of her early death. And made me long for a full retrospective of her work.
Mana Waka on a big screen in a crowded cinema will be very special. It's the first film on my festival list.
More about Mana Waka from 1989, via Peter Calder at the New Zealand Herald.
More about Merata Mita here (a duet from Cushla Parekowhai and me).