5 Films for AAPI Month: Oceania Version

Oceania includes Australia, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Unfortunately, my list is dominated by New Zealand which happens to be where my sister lives. Although, if you think of Samoa, perhaps anything The Rock is in counts.

Once Were Warriors

The 1994 film was based on Alan Duff’s 1990 novel of the same name, “Once Were Warriors.” Duff is of Ngāti Rangitihi and Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent.  Making its world premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, the film was directed by Lee Tamohori (Māori descent) and tells the story of a contemporary urban Māori  family who are marginalized in their native land and experience poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence while navigating between the predominately White society and their own traditions, both good and bad.  The film won a special jury award at HIFF and Best Film, Best Performance (Temuera Morrison), Best Director (Tamahori) and Best Screenplay (Riwia Brown) at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards. 

The Piano

In the 19th century, a mute Scottish woman (Holly Hunter) arrives in New Zealand with her young illegitimate daughter and her piano. She’s there to enter a loveless arranged marriage with a land-owning frontiersman (Sam Neill), but he gives away her piano. To get her piano back, she becomes involved with her husband’s friend (Harvey Keitel).  The film was written and directed by New Zealand-born Jane Campion, who won a Palme d’Or at Cannes, Best Director from the Australian Film Institute and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. She was the second woman ever nominated for Best Director. 

Black Grace: From Cannon’s Creek to Jacob’s Pillow

Black Grace is a Pacific Islander and Māori dance troupe from a small town outside of Wellington in New Zealand. The troupe fuse traditional Pacific Islander traditions with contemporary dance.  The 2004 documentary follows the troupe from their hometown to one of the oldest dance festivals in North America, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. 

Jojo Rabbit

Can you make a comedy about Adolf Hitler? In “Jojo Rabbit,” adapted from Christine Leunens’ 2008 book, “Caging Skies,” Jojo is a ten-year-old Hitler Youth member who confides in his imaginary friend, Hitler (Taika Waititi), when he discovered his mother is hiding a Jewish girl. The film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won Best Adapted Screenplay for Waititi who also directed. Waititi is of  Te Whānau-ā-Apanui descent through his father. 

Whale Rider

Written and directed by Niki Caro, this 2002 film is based on Maori author Witi Ihimaera’s 1987 novel of the same name. It is about a 12-year-old Māori girl (Keisha Castle-Hughes ) who challenges the traditions of her tribe. She wants to become chief, but her grandfather believes that role is for men only. Castle-Hughes was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. She lost to Charlize Theron for “Monster.” The film won Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress among other awards at the New Zealand Film Awards. 

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