Tribute: Merata Mita

Merata Mita as Matu in Utu (1983).
Respected Maori filmmaker Merata Mita has passed away. Add your tribute - use the commen

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Respected Maori filmmaker Merata Mita has died after collapsing outside Maori Television's Auckland studios on May 31.  

Read some of the tributes below and use the comment box to add yours.

New Zealand Film Commission

It is with much sadness that the New Zealand Film Commission acknowledges the passing of respected Maori filmmaker Merata Mita.

Merata began her filmmaking career in 1977.  She was a fiercely political documentary filmmaker, directing and co-directing films while also reporting and presenting for the Maori television news show Koha. 

Merata’s acclaimed documentary Patu! documented the violence between protestors and police during the 1981 Springbok tour.  Patu! was described by Listener reviewer Peter Wells, as “the hottest documentary ever made in New Zealand” and screened internationally at numerous film festivals.  In 1988 Merata wrote, directed and produced her first dramatic feature, Mauri, winning a best prize award at Italy's Rimini Film Festival. 

Merata recently returned to New Zealand after many years spent working and teaching in the United States.  She was a script advisor for the Sundance Film Institute and lectured on film at the University of Hawaii.  Most recently she has been a driving force behind Te Paepae Ataata, the New Zealand Film Commission/Nga Aho Whakaari development initiative to foster and encourage Maori film written, produced and directed by Maori.

Earlier this year, Merata was awarded the CNZM (Companion of the Order of New Zealand Merit), for her services to the Film Industry.

NZFC CEO, Graeme Mason, said “Merata’s impact on the NZ film industry and indigenous film making has been profound.  Her generous mentoring and dedicated friendship and support has encouraged and inspired many emerging filmmakers.  Her passing will leave a huge gap within the New Zealand filmmaking community.”

Other films Merata Mita directed or collaborated on are: Karanga Hokianga Ki O Tamariki (1979); The Hammer and the Anvil (1979); Keskidee Aroha (1980); Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980); The Bridge: A Story of Men in Dispute (1982); The Shooting of Dominick Kaiwhata (1993); and Mana Waka (1990); Hotere (2001); The Land Has Eyes (2004); Spooked (2004); Keao (2008); Boy (2010).

Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs
Poroporoaki ki a Merata Mita

E te rangatira, Merata, kua kapohia koe e te ringa ohorere o aitua.

Kua pani o iwi, Ngati Pikiao, Ngai Te Rangi, ratou ko o karanga maha.

Kua waipuke te awa o Kaituna i nga roimata e maringi noa i te whenua, mai i Rotorua ki Maketu, ki te Moana a Toi.

Ka aue nga iwi huri noa, o tatou tuakana i Hawai’i, nga iwi taketake o te Moana Nui a Kiwa, o Amerika, otira nga kaimahi whakaata o te ao.

Kua haere koe, heoi ano ta matou, he tangi i te aroha ki to whanau pani.

Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples joins the people of Ngati Pikiao and Ngai Te Rangi, Maori everywhere, filmmakers and indigenous peoples around the world, in mourning the sudden death this afternoon of Merata Mita.

“Merata was world-renowned as an actor, director and producer of films,” said Dr Sharples. “As a trained teacher, she used film to engage her students in education. Once she launched into a career as a film-maker, she broke nearly every barrier known to Maori women,” he said.

“After working as a guide on a documentary on the Treaty of Waitangi, Merata was ready to film the drama unfolding as the police and army removed Ngati Whatua and their supporters from ancestral land at Orakei in 1978.

“Her film ‘Bastion Point: Day 507’ was followed by the first feature-length documentary by a woman, ‘Patu!’, about the 1981 Springbok Tour protests. Her drama ‘Mauri’ was only the second feature directed by a Maori woman.

“Her topics, and her insights, reflect Merata’s passion for her causes. Justice, race relations, Maori history and workers’ rights, were revealed in drama, documentary and biography. Merata also pioneered Maori current affairs on television, she acted, lectured, produced, and mentored a rising generation.

“Her influence on New Zealand’s identity has been profound, and her personality and experience will be sorely missed,” said Dr Sharples.

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Written by

The Big Idea Editor

31 May 2010

The Big Idea Editor

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