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MAHANA

SYNOPSIS: In 1960s rural New Zealand, two Maori sheep-shearing families, the Mahanas and the Poatas, battle for supremacy in the shearing sheds and in their own hearts. The youngest Mahana, 14-year-old Simeon (Akuhata Keefe), is troubled by the rivalry and begins to unravel the truth behind the longstanding feud.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A beautifully calibrated screenplay by John Collee (from Witi Ihimaera's novel) is wrangled into a terrific drama by Lee Tamahori in a film that proves the notion 'through the specific to the universal'. This is true as we are drawn into the 1960s world of sheep country New Zealand and two Maori families. Although specific in detail, this story of feuding families is genetically connected to so many stories around the world, from Romeo & Juliet to the Brazilian drama, Behind the Sun (Dir. Walter Salles, 2001).

An astonishingly mature performance by youngster Akuhata Keefe as 14 year old Simeon Mahana opposite outstanding veteran Temuera Morrison as grandfather, the Mahana patriarch and a heartwrenching performance by Nancy Brunning as the grandmother, help enormously to make the film's drama satisfyingly engaging.

The film begins and ends with a funeral, each a pivotal aspect of the story, and each with its own dynamics. Between the two funerals, two families live in conflict, and the Mahana family lives with a secret that fuels its own internal conflict, as the patriarch (the film's original title) exerts his austere power over his five children and his wife.

The battle of the families' competing shearing teams serves as a metaphor for the changes that are taking place in these families, and Simeon's emergence as the truth teller and healer - not to mention gun shearer - is powerfully developed.

All this is set in 60s New Zealand, when the Maoris were still second class citizens, and we also see this through the surprisingly well read and cinematically informed Simeon's eyes.

The verdant beauty of New Zealand's countryside adds a visually exciting element to a film that is emotionally and cinematically rich, moving and of lasting value.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MAHANA (M)
(NZ, 2016)

The Patriarch

CAST: Temuera Morrison, Akuhata Keefe, Nancy Brunning, Jim Moriarty, Regan Taylor, Maria Walker

PRODUCER: Janine Dickins, Robyn Scholes

DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori

SCRIPT: John Collee (novel by Witi Ihimaera)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ginny Loane

EDITOR: Michael Horton, Jonathan Woodford-Robinson

MUSIC: Mauhia Bridgeman-Cooper, Tama Waipara

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Robins

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: eOne Entertainment

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 8, 2016







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