A young Maori boy from humble beginnings carries the hopes of his people on his shoulders as he races through school and starts university at the age of 14. This is the story of two cultures colliding within one boy, who shows remarkable potential for becoming a future world leader and creating political zeitgeist shifts to speak for indigenous peoples. Will Ngaa fulfil the dreams of his family and the expectations of his tribe?
As a documentary filmmaker I hear or read of things that interest me and it might be months or years later that I’m given the opportunity to explore that idea in film. I wait – subconsciously – for the right subject to come along.
I once heard that when we are 16 we begin to realise our own political views, that this is the year we become cognisant of the society around us, of differences in the lives of others. And we begin to become aware of how we can impact that – through our own voice be it writing, discussion or public protest, and in a democratic society like New Zealand by realising that in two years time at the age of 18 we can vote.
Truthfully when I was 16 my focus was the beach where I lived and volleyball tournaments. And in a recent international survey teens voted spray-tans and iPhones as the top inventions of all time. Are they really becoming politically aware? And if I was to explore this political coming-of-age did I really want to be hanging out with teenagers, sometimes monosyllabic moody individuals?
And then I met Ngaa Rauuira who at 16 becomes passionately political. One look now at his Facebook page tells how he champions the rights of the oppressed including his own people who were ousted from their lands, introduced to cigarettes and alcohol and banned from speaking their own language.
And so we filmed Ngaa Rauuira’s 16th year which evolved into an intense pressure cooker of political awareness – being halted from study as a New Zealand university because of his age, seeking educational opportunities overseas and departing his homeland for study at Yale summer semester – and getting As. All his previous 16 years of up-bringing and now this international study was percolating in this young mind and on his return to New Zealand he took his first major political steps leading protest marches. All in his 16th year.
Ngaa Rauuira is an exciting young man who talks in myths and finds his inspiration and direction from his ancestors. But is Ngaa Rauuira’s biculturalism relevant in the 21st century and will it help or hinder his political development? Or is he the future leader who can successfully straddle both worlds?
MAORI BOY GENIUS is my third narrative feature after 2003’s BEAUTY WILL SAVE THE WORLD shot is Libya and featuring a beauty competition hosted by Colonel Gadaffi, and THE ART STAR AND THE SUDANESE TWINS shot largely in South Sudan exploring the question Is international adoption the new colonialism?
As a first generation New Zealander, I wonder at the future of Aotearoa/New Zealand, a relatively new country, as we grapple with bi-culturalism and address the racial divides.
In MAORI BOY GENIUS I’m exploring these issues – and staying closer to home.