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Once Were Warriors


Sat 15 Oct 2016, 7:00pm–8:40pm

Where: Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, National Library Building, 70 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington

Restrictions: R15

Ticket Information:

  • General admission: $10.25 ea ($10.00 + $0.25 fees)
  • Concession: $8.20 ea ($8.00 + $0.20 fees)
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Screening as part of the “Films that shaped New Zealand – Celebrating 120 Years of Cinema” series.

Lee Tamahori’s brutal, unflinching feature debut stirred up as much controversy as it did success at the box office. It became the top grossing New Zealand feature film of all time, a position it held for a decade.

Based on Alan Duff’s bestselling novel of the same name, it tells the violent, urban, love story of Jake and Beth Heke, featuring stunning performances from its leading actors Rena Owen and Temuera Morrison. In dealing with a range of contemporary issues – from the impact of colonisation and urbanisation on Māori, to family and sexual violence, suicide and substance abuse – it provoked visceral, emotional reactions from audiences and caused debate and discussion across all sections of New Zealand society upon its release. The film remains as hard hitting now over two decades later.

"It is aggressive in delivery as much as content, and few will leave the theatre without feeling drained and exhausted. Tamahori is helped in no small way by the performances of Rena Owen as Beth, and Temuera Morrison as Jake. Morrison’s Jake is an uncompromising physical and emotional bully, for whom the pub is home territory... Beth is the best anti-hero ever to grace the New Zealand screen. After spending most of the film as a victim and punching-bag, she is eventually transformed by the film’s pivotal tragedy into a much wiser, stronger person. And it’s a spiritual rebirth that seems completely natural, credible and long overdue. ‘Once Were Warriors’ is a masterpiece..." – Mark Tierney, ‘NZ Listener,’ 14 May 1994

“‘Once Were Warriors’ was an exciting reservoir of paradoxes for audiences. Overseas viewers were fascinated to see New Zealand portrayed as a densely urban battle zone, where typically it had been presented to them as a fresh landscape with isolated vignettes of human activity. Local audiences debated the extent to which ‘Once Were Warriors’ was a truthful, fair depiction of either a subgroup of Māori society or the reality of domestic violence. For a commentator such as [Barry] Barclay the film was unwelcome evidence that the skills of Māori creative workers were being channelled by the forces of commercialism into conventional narrative patterns and a shallow stereotype of Māori as a ‘warrior’ people. Evidently, however, mainstream audiences found the fillm’s mix of machismo and romanticism exhilarating: Once Were Warriors took more than $6 million at the local box office, attracting one in three New Zealanders to see it. An equally large audience watched it on television.” – Diane Pivac with Frank Stark and Lawrence McDonald, New Zealand Film: An Illustrated History

Restaurants to book near Once Were Warriors