indie Berlinale FILM REVIEW: Mahana (The Patriarch)

by | indiefilms

MahanaDirected by Lee Tamahori

Starring Temuera Morrison, Akuhata Keefe, Nancy Brunning, Jim Moriarty, Regan Taylor

Running Time: 103 minutes

Festival Section: Out of Competition

Rating: Excellent

New Zealand / Maori director Lee Tamahori made a big splash in 1994 with Once Were Warriors, a domestic abuse drama set in a modern-day Maori community. This led to a career in Hollywood, making such films as Mulholland Falls, The Edge and the James Bond film Die Another Day.

Returning to New Zealand, he brought his major production experience to bear, creating an intimate family drama in an obscure rural setting, which, paradoxically enough, has the feel of a grand epic. Despite being about farmers with simple dreams, such as winning the local sheep-shearing competition, the film’s core concerns and relationships are highly relate-able and universal.

Newcomer Akuhata Keefe stars as Simeon, the feisty grandson of a powerful and authoritarian Maori landowner, farmer and patriarch of the Mahana family, played by Temuera Morrison, who starred as the abusive husband in Once Were Warriors.

Simeon trades barbs with his grandfather in a battle of wills in which only one of them can prevail. The independent-minded Simeon stands up for himself, his relatives and even an unjustly sentenced member of the Mahana family’s rival clan, the Poatas. He inadvertently discovers the underlying history behind the feud between the clans and becomes the catalyst for its resolution and the accompanying redress and healing.

Simeon is the best role model for young people to come along in a great long while, and the film is edifying, inspiring, moving and satisfying.

Next Berlinale screening: Sunday, February 21, 12:15 p.m. at the Berlinale Palast

Rating system: Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Awful

Review by Kirill Galetski

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