Taika Waititi’s production company Piki Films has signed up to create three projects with Māori writers from Aotearoa New Zealand that turn an indigenous eye on the effects of colonisation.
Waititi and Carthew Neal along side producer Morgan Waru will embark on two feature films and a TV Show. The aim of these projects with the aim is to give Indigenous voices a platform. Waru will head the development stages
“It’s fantastic to be working with the best of Aotearoa’s writing talent to tell these important stories”, says Waru. “There are many untold stories to tell on this topic and I’m proud to be part of the team bringing them to the screen.”
The first project is a film adaptation of Tina Makereti’s novel The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke. The novel tells the story of a curious Māori teen who adventures to London in the 1840s to appear as a live exhibit amongst Māori artefacts. Initially, he enjoys the attention and hedonism of London, but soon discovers he cannot get past being labelled as a savage. All Makereti’s material deals with indigenous stories and this is her fourth book. “’It seems strangely timely to see this story developed into a film, as we witness the toppling of colonial statues and attitudes.” adds Makereti.
The second project is the film adaptation of comedian Angella Dravid’s award-winning stand-up comedy show Down the Rabbit Hole, which retells her incredible true story of running away to marry a man three times her age on the other side of the world, before landing in a female British prison, a place where she inadvertently and ironically, finds herself. Briar Grace-Smith will pen the script with Dravid. This will be Grace-Smith’s fourth feature, with Cousins, which she also directs with Ainsley Gardiner, in post-production. Grace-Smith comments, “Angella’s true story is so extraordinary and she has such a unique point of view. I’m excited to bring it to life with her.”
Lastly, Michael Bennett and Jane Holland’s television crime thriller Better the Blood, which follows an obsessive Maori detective as she hunts down an indigenous serial killer revenging the wrongs of New Zealand’s colonisers. Bennett and Holland’s last project swept the New Zealand TV Awards. “This story allows us to explore the long-term scars of our brutal colonial history in the context of a visceral and popular genre.” says Bennett.
Off the back of 2020 Academy Award-winning Jojo Rabbit, what better time. The murder of George Floyd and resurgence of Black Lives Matter, it’s opened eyes globally made people rethink their attitudes. Someone like Waititi whose popularity thanks to JoJo and Thor Ragnarok, will be a great ambassador for champion change.