Whina movie: Trailer released for inspirational film about Dame Whina Cooper

The first trailer for New Zealand film Whina has been released ahead of the film's debut in cinemas later this year.

Whina tells the inspirational story of Dame Whina Cooper, New Zealand's Te Whaea o Te Motu (Mother of the Nation), her tumultuous life journey and unshakeable inner strength that led her to become one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most remarkable leaders. 

The film is directed by filmmaking duo James Napier Robertson, a renowned drama director, and Paula Whetu Jones (Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Porou), a skilled director of both drama and documentary, and was made with the full support of the Cooper whānau and Te Rarawa iwi leaders.

"We wanted to show her as a fully three-dimensional human being," says Napier Robertson.

"Dame Whina is this towering figure, so it's easy to forget the day-to-day struggles that she might have dealt with, and the challenges she had to overcome to do the things that she did. Those are aspects that I think anybody, when they see the film, will be able to relate to.

"The more we learned about Dame Whina, the more we were blown away by what she'd done and the life that she led."

"She had flaws, and we weren't afraid to address them," says Whetu Jones.

"But we wanted to address them in a way that would allow the audience to feel compassion for the choices that she had to make."

The lead role is being portrayed by three of Aotearoa's most talented actors. Set over most of Dame Whina Cooper's long life, Rena Owen (Ngāpuhi) (Once Were Warriors) embodies the elderly Whina, Miriama McDowell (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) (Waru Coming Home in the Dark) as the younger Whina, and newcomer Tioreore Ngātai-Melbourne (Hunt for the Wilderpeople / Cousins) portrays Whina as a teenager. 

Whina will have its nationwide cinema release on June 23, 2022, aligning with the inaugural Matariki long weekend.