Review: Matariki

Matariki offers a slice of south Auckland life pitching vibrant scenes like the Otara markets, wi


Reviewed by Jodi Yeats

A film written by Michael Bennett and Gavin Strawhan
Directed by Michael Bennett

offers a slice of south Auckland life pitching vibrant scenes like the Otara markets, with its Pacific Island music and culture, against violent and disturbing events.

For most of the five sets of characters, whose stories intertwine, drugs, fighting and crime are part of daily life.

They face challenges of cross-cultural relationships and of living in a western society when they have emigrated from quite different cultures and lifestyles.

The movie is nicely made, pacy and well acted. A great Kiwi soundtrack by Don McLashan features numbers by Gin Wigmore, Phoenix Foundation and Bella Kalolo, and it drives the action along and gives it a lift.

It is beautifully shot by veteran director of photography Allun Bollinger.

This is south Auckland at its coolest, as well as, at times, its grimmest.

What does redeem the stories, after a very dark beginning, is the introduction of some black humour and the formation of meaningful relationships between characters.

These relationships give Matariki more depth than can generally be achieved by a movie with multiple storylines where it is harder to develop characters.

A romance between a teenage Asian girl who meets a Tokelaun boy when he breaks into her bedroom is refreshingly uplifting against the dark backdrop. That she got in the 90s for maths and he’s a car-jacker and thief is sterotyped, but, that’s a quibble.

The movie closes with a strong sense of optimism and hope, even as a mother abandons her baby and others lose those they love.

In particular a whanau gathering to honour set the spirit free of a dying man is really moving and acts as a reminder of how much better, in general, Maori attend to the spiritual aspects of life than pakeha.

is a movie I was unsure about at first, but which drew me in and left me looking more towards the stars than the material and earthly.

Further information:

Matariki is on general release from 18 November
For more information visit

Written by

Jodi Yeats

23 Nov 2010