Merata Mita Doco Reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter
The legacy and personal life of the late New Zealand filmmaker Merata Mita are brought to life in the documentary Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen. The film, which had its international premiere at Sundance, where Mita was an advisor and the artistic director of the Sundance Institute Native Lab, is reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter.
“Directed by her youngest son, Heperi Mita, 32, who is a film archivist, this fascinating and insightful if also (perhaps necessarily) somewhat checkered work paints a picture of a fearless woman interested in advancing women and Indigenous rights both in New Zealand and abroad through filmmaking, which came at a certain cost for her extensive family at home (with many of them present as talking heads here),” Boyd van Hoeij writes in the review.
“At the start, the newbie director explains that looking at cinematic archive material is akin to an act of resurrection, which would be a fascinating idea even without the knowledge that Mita junior started working on this specific project only after his mother suddenly passed away in 2010. That said, Heperi isn’t interested in any kind of hagiographic portrait of his mother, as he tries to find a balance between recounting Merata’s many achievements and (at least part of) the toll this took on especially the director’s older siblings.
“When her work as a filmmaker starts to become more political, the pressure on Merata became so great even the police started to harass her. She rightly point out how this put her in an impossible situation, as it’s useless to go and complain about the police to … the police. But her uncomfortable films all had one scope: Create a better future for her children, so it feels entirely appropriate they get to tell her story, too, with practically all of them very proud of their mother but most of them also very aware that she often wasn’t there or put them in difficult situations because of the work she did.
“Society was, of course, quite different when Merata started making films: It’s a shock to see her, in archival interview footage, talk about how she didn’t hear about the existence of contraceptives until after the birth of her third child. She also struggled to find any Māori woman who could give her advice about possible abortions. With just a few brushstrokes, Heperi paints a very specific historic, geographic and familial context in which Merata’s character, her outrage and her can-do attitude would so severely clash with the obstacles thrown at her by life and the society she lived in, that it could only result in her becoming an activist for women’s and Indigenous rights.”
Original article by Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter, February 10, 2019.