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Tamahori has gone
on to make big budget, Hollywood films such as The Edge and Mulholland
Falls which, like Warriors both feature what has become one
of his trademarks stylised violence. Duff has gone on to national
prominence, writing more novels, newspaper columns, and a screenplay
sequel to the original film. He shows a commitment to social reform
with his Books in Homes scheme which encourages reading
among children. He is also a pedagogue, one of Maoridoms most
strident critics, and his newspaper columns often brink on the verge
of a Frank Haden-like hysteria. So how should I regard these two artists?
As Maori bashers? Traitors to their race? Or as visionaries pointing
out our faults and offering positive solutiuons?
Perhaps my ambivalence
springs from the fact that I am the other side of the coin. I grew up
in a stable home. My father a Maori never hit my mother,
I never had anything to do with gangs and neither I nor any of my siblings
ended up in a childrens home or jail. And yet I have been involved
in the dark underside of Maori society, through relatives, and through
both my fathers and my own experiences working with Maori youth
at risk and their families. The film does not exaggerate (if anything
it is a sanitised view of reality). The problems portrayed in Warriors
really do exist. Perhaps I feel guilty for feeling a sense of catharsis,
purged of the emotions of pity and fear at the conclusion of the film.
And theres the rub I get to walk out of the theatre feeling
relatively cleansed while the real Jake Hekes and James Whakarurus
are still out there with no real prospect of escape from the vicious
cycles in which they are trapped.
Did the film change anything about New Zealand for the better? Perhaps
it made us more aware of the problems facing the dispossessed in our
society. But it fails to give a balanced picture. It is a modern Maori
myth that has gained the currency of truth. The truth, however, will
always be far more complex than any one film or book might suggest.
So, yes, I admire Warriors as an aesthetically as a pleasing
piece of kinetic art, but I would not use it as a measuring stick for
reality. Although the Heke family and their milieu may reflect reality
to some extent, it is a predominantly negative and, I believe, one-sided
view. Having personally experienced many of the positive aspects of
Maori culture I would deplore this films portrayal of my race,
if it were not for the fact that it was made by Maori. I would think
that we are doomed as a race if we continue to view ourselves in such
a harsh and unforgiving light. I think we need to see a positive reply
to this film. We live and hope...
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