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Māoriland Film Festival announces 2021 Programme

The 8th annual film festival will present 120 films and 50 events from 80 Indigenous nations over five days in March (24th – 28th).


Māoriland Film Festival is excited to announce its MFF2021 programme!

The 8th annual film festival will present 120 films and 50 events from 80 Indigenous nations over five days in March (24th – 28th).

Festival director Libby Hakaraia says the theme for this year’s festival is Auahatanga Mō Te Ngākaupai – Creative Positivity

“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,” says 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.

“During lockdown, technology gave us the tools to stay together and 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.”

Day one of the 2021 Māoriland Film Festival includes the official opening of the first designated filmmaker residence in New Zealand at the Māoriland Hub in Ōtaki. That evening the Māoriland keynote speech at the carved Rangiatea Church will be made by Rena Owen.

Rena Owen is an internationally award-winning actress, including Best Actress at the New Zealand, Montreal, Oporto, Seattle, and San Diego Film Festivals for her leading role in Kiwi breakthrough film Once Were Warriors.

Past keynote speakers are Tainui Stephens, Lawrence Makoare, Larry Parr, Julian and Mabelle Dennison, Rawiri Paratene, Heperi and Awatea Mita, and Temuera Morrison.

The Māoriland Film Festival will begin with the worldwide festival premiere of Cousins on opening night,  the highly anticipated film adaptation of the Patricia Grace novel of the same name.

Directed by Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, the story follows Mata, Makareta and Missy – three cousins separated by time, and their long journey to find each other.

Grace-Smith co-stars alongside Tanea Heke (Waru) and Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) to tell a story of whanau and connection. Both Ainsley and Briar will be attending the screening and hosting a live Q&A.


World-renowned Métis Cree Canadian documentarian Loretta Todd’s debut feature film Monkey Beach will be premiered in Aotearoa at the Māoriland Film Festival this year as well.

Based on Eden Robinson’s award winning novel of the same name, the 2020 film is a story about a young indigenous woman returning to her hometown to discover how dysfunctional her family has become. 

The film premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival last year and swept up awards at the Red Nation Film Festival in December, winning Best Picture, Lead Actress, Lead Actor and Best Director.

Other films screening at the festival include Indigenous Nigeria’s first ever animated film Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters, and Love and Fury, a striking documentary from Native American director Sterlin Harjo profiling a series of Indigenous artists in various disciplines, asking the question – what happens when Native artists stop asking permission to create?

The latest feature film from multi-award-winning Mohawk (Canada) director Zoe Hopkins Run Woman Run will be screened on closing night.

Cognisant of cinema in a time of Covid, MFF2021 will also present a COVID-19 programme of films created during the pandemic. These serve as an Indigenous reflection on an unprecedented year, featuring films from Norway, Malaysia, Hawaii, Finland, Australia, Brazil and Aotearoa.

There will be screenings of short film collections throughout the festival, which have been submitted from native people across the globe.

Alongside film screenings, the festival will host a M.A.T.C.H exhibition to showcase the work rangatahi have been doing at the Māoriland Tech Creative Hub over the last year.

Shining a spotlight on how Indigenous storytelling is being enhanced by emerging digital platforms, this won’t be one to miss.

The Māoriland Film Festival runs from 24th to 28th March across several venues in Otaki, including the Māoriland Hub.

Tickets are available from February 6 on iTicket.

Written by

Māoriland Charitable Trust

11 Mar 2021

Māoriland presents facilitates and supports Māori and international Indigenous filmmakers and creatives. We exist for the social, economic and educational success of our community in Ōtaki through connection to the wider world of Indigenous creativity and innovation.