Here comes Mahana (The Patriarch), a classical screen story, which will win your heart over and over again.
Actions movies can be tedious when they’re overdone, but movies with a strong story never fail to impress.
Set in the 1960s, Mahana is a story about two rival sheep-shearing Maori families,the Mahanas and the Poatas, told through the eyes of a teenage grandson.
Tamihana Mahana (Temuera Morrison) is the ruler of the Mahana family.
In his (family) kingdom, everyone fears him, he lays the rule, dictates the terms and punishes his loved ones without holding back.
He is a true dictator and as the person who built the family fortune from scratch, he is not willing to lose easily, especially to the family’s arch-rivals, the Poatas, led by Rupeni Poata (Jim Moriarty).
The Mahanas and Poatas have been at war for generations and the reason why is revealed later in the movie.
In the Mahana family, no-one questions Tamihana’s authoritarian rule except his teenage grandson, Simeon (Akuhata Keefe).
Simeon is a smart bloke, someone who is not afraid to speak his heart out and he is secretly in love with a one of the Poata girls.
During a family dinner, Simeon questions his grandfather’s decision to ban the children from attending cinemas, sending the latter into a rage.
In a bitter fight, Simeon’s dad while trying to defend his son, hits his father, Tamihana, and is banished from his land.
Tamihana’s wife Ramona Mahana (Nancy Brunning) rebels against her husband’s decision and gives Simeon’s family her house and land.
Starting from scratch, Simeon and his family overcome numerous obstacles to get their lives back on track.
But when everything starts running smoothly, a dark family secret unravels, leading to an unexpected climax.
Directed by veteran New Zealand filmmaker Lee Tamahori, best known for directing the 1994 hit movie Once Were Warriors and 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day, does a superb job with this family melodrama, based on the book by author Witi Ihimaera.
The opening scene is superbly set, and so different to other flicks in this genre, that it gets you right up with the action immediately
The Mahana family, while on their way to a well-known landowner’s funeral, see the Poatas driving by. In a bid to be the first at the funeral to bargain the deceased’s son’s on a work contract, they decide to race down the road.
Tamahori’s depiction of the enmity between the two families using that humorous shot shows the intensity of their rivalry while still maintaining their humanity.
The use of background score and the music complements the mood of the movie.
It is exquisitely done to keep the audience gripped to their seats with eyes fixed to the screen throughout the entire movie.
Morrison, who is an acclaimed Kiwi actor having played a role in the Star Wars movies as well, is outstanding in his character.
I know some family heads who are dictators. In fact I don’t have to look far as I have some in my own family, and Morrison defines every aspect of it with such anger, pride and cruelty that you will be relieved he isn’t your granddad.
Keefe is brilliant in portraying a character who is innocent, naïve and honest.
In a kingdom ruled by a Goliath, his character is the David who stands in the bully’s way.
Mahana is a simple film portraying the complicated lifestyles of generations who paved the way for us to live in a world without fear and autocracy.
It is an emotionally-charged movie that makes one believe that love really does conquer all.
As they say, “It’s not the size of a man, but the size of his heart that matters.” Mahana makes you believe that weaknesses and strengths are truly twins in the same womb.
As one of my workmates is fond of saying, when the going gets tough, “You can do it!”
Mahana is about that and much more.