Through Our Lens is the brainchild of New Zealand Maori film maker/producer Libby Hakaria and the team at Maoriland CharitableTrust and Film festival, which aims to create new Maori and Pacific film leaders and help build networks and provide future collaborations.
In September, 2017 14 young Maori filmmakers travelled to Rarotonga, Hawaii, Samoa and Tahiti to work with young people in each nation.
Rarotonga was the first stop for the project, which was hosted by Motone Productions, and consisted of a three-day workshop covering storyboarding, camera techniques, sound recording and editing.
The three Cook Islands films, which screened at the Civic Theatre in Otaki, were called Island Time, Chord of Grief and The Legend of Katikatia. All were filmed during the three days of the workshop.
Island Time provides a glimpse into the life of three Rarotonga girls, who should be at school but are distracted by the beauty and fun of their island.
Chord of Grief is a story about suicide and depression from the eyes of a little brother, while Legend of Katikatia is about a witch who lures children with her beautiful hair and beautiful voice. Motone director Maurice Newport attended the Otaki screenings to represent the group, and now that the films have screened in New Zealand, Motone is arranging to screen them on Rarotonga.
Joining Newport in New Zealand was 11-year-old Koru McDonald, who starred in the Chord of Grief.
McDonald said taking part in the five-day festival was an enjoyable experience.
“It was a bit strange at times, seeing myself on screen. People would see me on the screen, and then look at me, and then back at the screen,” McDonald laughed.
“But it was great seeing how much hard work people had put into these (films), and how much praise we received from the work.”
The exuberant, articulate youngster also was able to get a “selfie” with Julian Dennison, the star of the New Zealand hit movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which McDonald said was a major highlight.
Newport said before leaving New Zealand, he had a meeting with the people from Maoriland to make sure that they returned to the Cook Islands later this year.
The goal was for the same style workshop as last year, but for workshop participants to also go to Aitutaki.
“It’s a commitment from them to follow up where they’ve been before, which was Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii and here,” Newport said.
“We want to keep it going so that those that were involved (last year) don’t lose interest.”
Newport and his wife Glenda Tuaine, have been committed to supporting and promoting the performing arts since they founded Motone.
“If people want to pursue performance art as a career, we want to show them that it’s ‘do-able’,” said Newport.
He also hopes one day to expand the relationship with Maoriland, to the point where a film festival can be held on Rarotonga.
Another dream is for Cook Islands films to feature at other film festivals around the world. Newport said the “gold standard” was the Sundance festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States.