Dramatized reconstructions, archival footage and modern imagery are woven into a rich and colourful story about the Whanganui River in a new documentary, TE WHIRINGA TAURA O WHANGANUI, screening on Maori Television for the first time.
The hour-long film – headlining the New Zealand Documentary slot, Pakipumeka Aotearoa, on Wednesday July 11 2007 at 8.30 PM – is presented by Sacha Utupoto Keating of Ngati Ruaka.
Writer, producer and director Howard Taylor says the documentary’s central character is the beautiful, mysterious and magical Whanganui River which has been central to the lives of Maori for more than 700 years. Providing food, shelter and transport, the river is both a taonga (treasure) and source of identity for the people living along its banks. In myth, its steep cliffs are the result of a fight over a woman.
“The river has been fought over ever since, and the conflict continues today,” Mr Taylor explains. “Its beauty and serenity belie the tensions that have occasionally erupted in bloodshed, and continue to bubble just below the surface in the 21st century.
“TE WHIRINGA TAURA O WHANGANUI explores the river and its people through the eyes of Sacha Keating as he explores his whakapapa. It is a personal journey of discovery as he learns the stories and history of his people and the river – through Sacha, we experience the wairua, ihi, wehi and wana of the river.”
Sacha Keating grew up in Wellington but did not have an in-depth knowledge of his Maori tribal roots or cultural identification and “needed to understand the importance of my Maoritanga”. Part of that rebirth was initially through a kapa haka group which identified the teachings of the old people. He enrolled at Te Wananga o Raukawa in Otaki and at 27, he graduated with a Bachelor of Literary Performing Arts.
Now proficient in the Maori language, Sacha Keating teaches kapa haka in primary schools and works for Whanganui iwi radio station Awa FM. A man of many talents, he is following in the footsteps of his great grandfather Haimona Te Utupoto and is much in demand as a ta moko artist. He is also a musician, performing with a variety of groups and producing CDs, and has written and recorded the music for TE WHIRINGA TAURA O WHANGANUI as well as presenting the documentary and choreographing the fight scenes.
“Sacha has turned his life around,” Mr Taylor says. “At the core of that transformation is his identification with Te Wainui a Rua, Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi, Ngati Apa and Ngati Tuwharetoa as well as the restorative powers of the Whanganui awa.”
TE WHIRINGA TAURA O WHANGANUI screens on Maori Television in the New Zealand Documentary slot, Pakipumeka Aotearoa, on Wednesday July 11 2007 at 8.30 PM.