Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen

Hepi Mita
New Zealand
2018
87 minutes

The May 11 screening at SFU Woodward's is the 18th Annual DOXA Documentary Film Festival Closing Gala screening and will be preceded by an awards ceremony.

“One of my primary goals is to decolonize the screen and to Indigenize the screen.” These are the words of Merata Mita, the first Māori woman — and one of the first Indigenous women in the world — to write and direct a narrative feature film (Mauri, 1988). Mita, best known for her independent documentaries of the 1970s and 80s, continues to be recognized as one of the most influential women in Indigenous filmmaking. A notorious agitator, her films bear witness to the injustice Māori people face in New Zealand, providing a voice for Māori people and especially for Māori women.

Directed by her youngest son Hepi Mita, Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is a tender posthumous tribute to his mother’s life and career. Through a wealth of archival footage we get to know the trailblazing director as she discusses her career, family, and political views with candor. Her interviews span decades and are intercut with never-before-seen footage from her unfinished films. Personal accounts from her grown children (who often worked on her films themselves) describe the challenges they faced growing up with a mom who was on the front lines of social movements, and was frequently harassed by police.

Mita’s striking footage of Māori land rights activists in her 1980 film Bastion Point: Day 507, recall similar images from Alanis Obomsawin’s pioneering documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. Obomsawin talks about her friendship with Mita and describes the power of seeing each other’s films for the first time, reflecting on how they both fought to elevate the voices of their people. (This tradition of Indigenous documentary filmmaking is carried forward in Tasha Hubbard’s new film nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up)

We’re excited to conclude our festival with a warm-hearted portrait of a visionary artist, activist, and mother. Mita’s legacy is an inspiring reminder that film, on and behind the screen, is a critical tool for social and political change. - SC