Kiwi film about Māori deaf identity, Tama, selected for prestigious indigenous film festival

A scene from Tama.
A scene from Tama. Photo credit: imagineNATIVE/supplied

Short film Tama has been selected by the New Zealand Film Commission for the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts festival in Toronto.

Directed by Jared Flitcroft and Jack O'Donnell, the film explores the journey of a young Māori deaf boy trying to perform a haka silently and struggling to gain acceptance by his own family.

It debuted at the Wairoa Māori Film Festival last year, where it picked up four awards - including Best Short Film.

Co-director Jared Flitcroft said receiving New Zealand Film Commission funding for the October festival has "blown my expectations".

"Going to Toronto shows that with hard work we can achieve great things from a simple little film directed by a deaf and a hearing person," he said.

"I am most proud of the Tama crew, the whole crew has worked so hard on this film and without them, it wouldn't have happened."

Dale Corlett, head of talent development at the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), said: "The NZFC is proud to have supported Tama's creative team to attend the world’s leading indigenous film festival, ImagineNATIVE in Toronto.

"Tama is a very powerful unique NZ story that tackles important issues of our day. It is a visually engaging and emotive film that is a credit to the creative team behind it."

The first UN-sanctioned International Day of Sign Languages was celebrated last Sunday, September 23, and the selection of the film coincides with the International Week of the Deaf.

Flitcroft, a Māori deaf film-maker who runs a production company called JPF Films, has been glad to be able to use New Zealand sign language in the film production process.

"Jack [film co-director] and Ash [producer] are learning to sign, so it has been a very inclusive community and I'm proud to be a part of it.

"I am thankful for my family for having a good attitude towards NZSL and helping each other understand what we are saying."

In a joint statement, the directors say the film was stronger for the collaboration.

"Jared's strong sense of visual storytelling and direction of our deaf actor gave this film a unique voice. Jack's ability to direct hearing actors and create a strong soundscape helped our combined vision come to life."