Fifth annual Māoriland Film Festival kicks off

8:45 pm on 21 March 2018

While Hollywood is wrestling with gender equality and representation of minorities in the film industry, the small New Zealand town of Otaki is carving the way.

Maoriland Film Festival.

Maoriland Film Festival. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

About 12,000 people are expected at Otaki's Māoriland Film Festival which is showing more than 100 indigenous films from 11 countries over the next five days.

Film makers, the Film Commission and Otaki locals were welcomed onto Raukawa Marae as part of the opening of the festival.

It's been held in the small town annually since 2013.

This year, there will be five feature films and 86 shorts, around 60 percent were made by women.

Festival director Libby Hakaraia said that number reflected the high standard of films created by women.

"You'll see that women, as much as indigenous film, is on the rise around the world and winning awards and all the big festivals around the world, so are women - they're telling their stories and they're driven to tell stories," she said.

One of the more well-known films being screened is the feature, Waru. Directed by nine Māori women, it explores domestic violence and the death of a small boy.

Director Briar Grace Smith said as women, they were able to look at the issue in a different light.

"Our roles in families are usually the caregivers, the ones holding it together so you'll find that it's very much a story of resilience and hope rather than let's look at violence for entertainment's sake or look at it from an outsider's point of view - it's very real we're right in the circle there," she said.

Film makers and native representatives from countries including Norway, Finland, Canada and Australia are involved in the festival.

Sunna Nousuniemi, from the International Sami Film Institute, said it was empowering to be part of an event that celebrated diversity.

Female directors were vital to the industry, she said.

"We are the teachers and nurturers and I think that's very important to get our teachings into film and we show the way we carry the culture and take it forward."

Film Commissioner Annabelle Sheehan said diversity in the film industry is changing the way stories are told.

"The diversity is the thing that is driving the screen industry, driving change in the screen industry faster than many other things, other than probably digital platforms and streaming services.

"I think diversity is a really significant factor in moves and changes in story telling and in audience interest," she said.

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