With both "Mannahatta" and "Waru" premiering at NZIFF, Renae Maihi is the first ever Māori woman film to have two films screen in this festival in the same year. "Mannahatta" is also the first narrative short film to be made by a Māori film maker in New York City.
Renae made her new work whilst studying film in New York City. Renae is also one of the "Waru" directors whose film is also a potential world first in the fact that never before have such a group of indigenous women come together to make a singular feature film.
Renae is a focused and hardworking filmmaker who is committed to her craft, and I had the opportunity to chat with her on "Kōrero Kiriata" in the lead up to her film's New Zealand premiere in Auckland.
Leo Koziol: What inspired you to make a film in New York?
Renae Maihi: The story called to me as an indigenous woman and I knew I had to try my best to make it under tough conditions. I was not intimidated by the location at all - its just a different tree to shake out for resources and I'm use to having to do that.
LK: How excited are you to have two films in the NZ International Film Festival?
RM: I am so excited to be apart of the NZIFF once again but to have two films in the film festival is a real honour, particularly as a Maori woman filmmaker. These films would have not been possible if I was not offered the opportunity and support to make film. I hope to get more opportunities in the future & to premiere a feature film at the NZIFF one day soon.
LK: It is exciting to hear about your aspirations to be a feature film maker.
RM: Yes, I feel comfortable in long form storytelling - I have written 2 professional theatre play's as well as Directed in theatre so the idea of dealing with long narratives does not overwhelm me as its where I started.
I have some exciting projects in the pipeline which I'm focused on finding development funding for at the moment, one in particular that is a biopic about one of our greatest New Zealanders - I'll keep mum's the word on that one for now. I'm definitely ready to get started making feature films.
LK: Well that's inspiring to hear Renae, and thank you once again for coming on to kōrero on "Kōrero Kiriata" Radio Waatea every Thursday at 11 am.
Catch "Manahatta" along with six other inspiring Māori and Pasifika short films at the ASB Waterfront Theatre, 6 pm Saturday 22nd in Auckland.
When an ancient Native American spirit lost in an in-between world is seen by pizza worker Ivan he attempts to get a message across. But Ivan isn’t interested, he is on a one-week trial in this busy New York City pizzeria and cannot afford to lose the job. But some ghosts cannot rest until they are heard. Mannahatta - a compelling and at times humorous black & white short film about peace and understanding.
“Mannahatta was made as a final project for a two-month filmmaking intensive that I participated in towards the end of 2015 at the New York Film Academy. I wrote this screenplay because, as a Maori woman, a native person in my own country New Zealand, I felt the need to somehow acknowledge the forgotten ancestral tribes of Manhattan, New York City (NYC).
Another stand out thing for me during my time in NYC was the vast array of cultures who now called the place home. Whilst this is a wonderful thing I also had a real sense of the struggle & obstacles than new immigrants face when trying to make a place in a sometimes unaccepting environment.
I wanted to tell the story of two men who were experiencing isolation and loneliness in this city and who, through their coming together find a sense of peace, humanity & unity.”
- Renae Maihi
(Ngati Whakaue, Ngapuhi)
Renae Maihi is an award winning and critically acclaimed writer and director in theatre and film.
After completing a Drama degree in 2005 she went on to write her critically acclaimed debut play Nga Manurere, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes. NZ Herald Best of 2009 favoured Nga Manurere as the “surprise jewel of the year” and proclaimed: “More Maihi mahi please.”
The short film Redemption which she co-wrote with Tim Balme and Katie Wolfe travelled to Berlin Film Festival, Sundance and won the Best Short Film at Toronto’s Imaginative Film Festival 2010. Renae then went on to write and direct her NZFC funded and award winning short film Butterfly that she accompanied to various international film festivals in Toronto and Germany.
Her play PATUA won Renae the Adam NZ Playwrights award for Best Play by a Maori Playwright. In its debut season (directed by Renae), critics called Patua a “NZ Classic” and the NBR noted that it should be “Studied in every high school in NZ.”
2015 was a busy year for Renae: she directed the NZ On Air funded music video LOCKDOWN by Rezist before spending two months in New York City at NY Film Academy developing her filmmaking skills with the support of the NZ Film Commision and Ngati Whakaue Education Endowment Trust. Whilst there she wrote and directed her most recent short film Mannahatta shot entirely on location in New York City. Mannahatta made its international film festival debut in October 2016 at imagineNATIVE Toronto.
In 2016 Renae was selected by BSAG Productions as one of eight Maori women directors for the “WARU” collaborative feature film project. Renae is currently one of the directors selected by DEGNZ for a female director focused incubator initiative., Renae, along with two other Directors, was selected by the NZFC for the one-year accelerator mentoring initiative which grants her direct mentorship with experienced directors and opportunities such as the MIFF accelerator program with the overall view of getting her to feature film level.
It is her ambition to begin her career as a feature film writer/director with her trilogy series “The White Feather Prophecies.”