KAHUNGUNU MARAE, 12.30 PM SUNDAY JUNE 2
Directed by Briar Grace-Smith, Ainsley Gardiner, Renae Maihi, Casey Kaa, Awanui Simich-Pene, Chelsea Cohen, Katie Wolfe, Paula Jones
New Zealand 86 min 2017 English, Maori
Comprised of eight vignettes that document the funeral of a young Maori boy, Waru is a formally complex reflection on tragedy, responsibility, and the intimate grain of a community united in the face of grief.
Made up of eight short films, each 10 minutes in length and directed by a different filmmaker, Waru is a formally unique and narratively ambitious endeavour. Each of these stories, presented as a continuous shot in real time, is an approach to the same traumatic event: the death of a young boy, Waru, at the hands of his caregiver.
Using as its departure point the tangi (funeral) of the small boy, the film takes the perspectives of eight different women, all of whom are connected in varying degrees to Waru's family and community. Each vignette has a remarkable feeling of immediacy; taken together, the films affect like a thunderclap. A Pandora's box of difficult questions — around responsibility, guilt, shame, and poverty — is opened. These stories do not only dwell in the dark moments, however. From the schoolroom to the community kitchen to a television studio, humour, warmth, pride, and courage provide textured insight into a complex society.
The first feature film made by Maori women in almost 30 years, and shot in only eight days (one day per short), Waru is not only an unconventional achievement in filmmaking, it is a remarkable tribute to the female eye, in particular, those of eight extraordinary Maori.
(Jane Schoettle – Toronto International Film Festival)