Māoriland Film Festival 2021 to kick off with premiere of Cousins, keynote speech by Rena Owen

Māoriland Film Festival 2021 to kick off with premiere of Cousins, keynote speech by Rena Owen
Photo credit: Supplied

The Māoriland Film Festival released its 2021 programme on Waitangi Day, featuring 120 films and 50 events from 80 Indigenous nations.

The festival will launch with the festival premiere of the New Zealand film Cousins, based on Patricia Grace's novel of the same name. 

The Southern Hemisphere's largest Indigenous film festival will take place over five days, kicking off on March 24. 

Day one of the festival includes the official opening of the first designated filmmaker residence in Aotearoa at the Māoriland Hub in Ōtaki. New Zealand acting legend Rena Owen - best known for her role as Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors - will give a keynote speech that evening at the Rangiatea Church. 

Festival Director Libby Hakaraia says the theme of the festival this year - Auahatanga Mō Te Ngākaupai or Creative Positivity - celebrates the filmmaking that took place during the unprecedented and uncertain year that was 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"2020 was on track to be the biggest festival we'd ever held with over 120 international guests heading to Otaki to celebrate Indigenous stories and voices in cinema," said Hakaraia.

"But then the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a lot of businesses and events - including the 2020 festival. People turned to storytelling and creativity to make sense of an uncertain world."

Hakaraia said that technology was key during lockdowns in order for people to "continue creating and innovating". 

"So in 2021, we will celebrate films created during extraordinary circumstances - the stories we told during lockdown across Aotearoa and the rest of the world."

As well as the festival premiere of the much-anticipated New Zealand film Cousins on opening night, other films featuring on the programme include:

  • Métis Cree Canadian documentarian Loretta Todd's debut feature film Monkey Beach
  • Indigenous Nigeria's first-ever animated film Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters
  • A documentary from Native American director Sterlin Harjo titled Love and Fury
  • The latest feature film from multi-award-winning Mohawk (Canada) director Zoe Hopkins, Run Woman Run.

The Māoriland Film Festival runs from March 24 - 28 across several venues in Otaki, and tickets are available now.