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Tupaia's Endeavour World Premiere in Whānau Mārama: The New Zealand International Film Festival

Kirk Torrance as Tupaia in Tupaia's Endeavour
Kirk Torrance tatau supervised by Michel Tuffery
Film makes startling new discoveries about Tahitian navigator high priest Tupaia's journey on Cook's Endeavour


The documentary telling the story of Tupaia, star-navigator, high-priest, artist - the Tahitian who ensured the success of James Cook's 1769 voyage to New Zealand. TUPAIA’S ENDEAVOUR, will World Premiere in a special director’s cut exclusively for Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival.

Tupaia, side-lined in British accounts of the voyage, was the central character for Māori and made a huge impact, particularly in Ūawa/Tolaga Bay, where Te Aitanga a Hauiti historian Anne Iranui McGuire told the filmmakers. “To our people Tupaia was the captain of that boat.”

In TUPAIA’S ENDEAVOUR artist Michel Tuffery and actor Kirk Torrance, with Professor Paora Tapsell, Dame Anne Salmond and Māori tangata whenua, retrace the footsteps of Tupaia in true Polynesian style. Under the gaze of their ancestors, with song, haka and humour, they make startling new discoveries that will rewrite history, cementing Tupaia’s role as a central figure of the modern Pacific renaissance.

The film’s director/producer/editor Lala Rolls, whose 2007 documentary LAND OF MY ANCESTORS was also selected for the New Zealand International Film Festival, devoted eight years to making this film on a stop-start basis, fundraising for
each part of the production as she went.

She says, “It’s fantastic to be selected into this innovative year of the film festival, which means people all over the country will be able to see our cinematic version of TUPAIA’S ENDEAVOUR. We are so looking forward to the conversations around our recent discoveries which will screen for the first time here.

“It turns out it was exactly right that this film should take so long to make. All the delays and the sharing of versions with local communities along the way has drawn a wealth of new knowledge and information to us. This has fed into and brought a special kind of magic to the final cut. The film is more than just a film. It is a presentation of oral history, art and culture that goes way beyond what we hoped for.”

Anthropologist and historian Dame Anne Salmond, who appears in the film, says: “TUPAIA’S ENDEAVOUR is important because it’s a portal to one of the world’s great stories, which is the way in which the ancestors of Polynesians explored and settled a third of the earth’s surface.

“On this little coal ship, the Endeavour, there were these three extraordinary characters: Tupaia, high priest, navigator, artist, lover, explorer, adventurer. James Cook, one of the great European explorers of all time and Joseph Banks, scientific impressario. What an amazing set of characters.

“What an extraordinary story. In sharing it, Lala is enriching our understanding of how it’s the whole story of human settlement of the globe. It’s a great story in world history.”

On seeing the film, Anne Iranui McGuire said, “I love the way that Māori and Tahitian voices give their own, unmediated accounts of what happened when the Endeavour arrived in Tahiti and New Zealand. They confront the violence and cross-purposes involved in those meetings with grace and humour, as well as anger and sorrow. So important for the country and internationally as well.”

Kirk Torrance, who plays Tupaia as well as following Tupaia's story as a participant alongside Michel Tuffery, says, “In the histories we were taught Tupaia had been completely left out. So it’s exciting to be part of placing him back in the forefront of our contact history.”

Artist Michel Tuffery, whose paintings illustrate the story, says, “It’s giving affirmation about what our people can do. Who this superhero was  - Tupaia - but there were a whole lot of other Tupaias out there. It’s added another layer of history.”

TUPAIA’S ENDEAVOUR was directed, produced and edited by Lala Rolls, through her company Island Productions Aotearoa in association with the Major Arc Trust.

Funding: New Zealand Lottery - Tuia Encounters 250 Fund, New Zealand On Air, Te Māngai Paho, Māori Television Service, The
Worldview Project of the Public Media Alliance UK, Te Hā 1769 Sestercetennial Trust, Office des Postes et Télécommunication Tahiti (OPT),
Polynesie 1ére, Random Films, The British Council of NZ, Porirua City Council,
Major Arc Trust, Girls Helping Girls Trust, University of Otago, Malcolm
Thompson, Lise Abraham, Marc Baily and Nomi Bar-Even, Catherine and Gordon
Howie, Annemarie Rolls.

Producer/Director/Editor: Lala Rolls

Director ofP hotography: David Paul

Music Composition: Riki Gooch and Stephen Gallagher

Sound Design: Melanie Graham

Graphic Effects: John Strang/Dusk

Co-producers: Grant and Bryce Campbell, Olivier Roth with Viv Winter, Nicola Olsen, Elaine Koller, Benjamin Picard

Executive Producers: Jan Bieringa, George Andrews, Tiwai Reedy, Lise Abraham

Presenter and Artist: Michel Tuffery

Presenter and Actor: Kirk Torrance

Key Participants: Prof. Paora Tapsell, Dame Anne Salmond, Anne Iranui McGuire, Taha Natua Manutahi, Nick Tupara, Wayne Ngata



Contact details: 0274 739 318

Written by

Kiriata Publicity and Distribution

20 Jun 2020

Interests Kiriata Publicity operates as a specialist publicist of films in New Zealand, created and owned by film publicist Sue May.