Answer questions by including references to specifics in the film to illustrate your ideas and to tie them closely to the film. Remember that specifics refer to pieces dialog and/or narration, scenes, images, character choices, plot points, soundtrack elements, camera work, editing choices and more.
2 Chapters 10 and 11 in Native Features by Wood discuss key themes that come up in Maori films before and after 2000. The themes are these: conflicts between generations; successful fusing of the old and the new; emphasis on children; questions about what is correct and effective political action; acknowledging reality that an increasing number of Pacific Islanders are urban and with no memory of ancestral lands and traditions; gender relations; indigenous language preservation; invisible forces exerting influence; celebration of assimilation. Consider which seem central to this film’s story and meaning. How/where do you see the film reflecting and developing the themes you identify?
Question 2 : In “’Lest Others Speak for Us’: The Neglected Roots and Uncertain Future of Maori Cinema in New Zealand,” Jennifer Gauthier develops an extended discussion of “a Maori Aesthetic” as she looks closely at Barry Barclay’s films and Ngati in particular. Here the term aesthetic refers to a set of principles, values, and/or goals underlying and guiding the work or collection of works of an artist, a people, an art movement, etc. Elements of a Maori Aesthetic according to Gauthier and Barclay include a social or spiritual point to the work (197), collective and indigenous casts and crew producing the film, an unhurried pace and a commitment to listening without interruption: “…the camera should be both a listener and a patient observer” (201) as well as an emphasis on the whole community. Do you see element of this aesthetic reflected in Whale Rider? Which and where?
Part 2 –
reflect on Barry Barclay’s "Open Letter to John Barnett." Barclay is speaking/writing from his perspective as an Indigenous film maker in New Zealand. He is addressing John Barnett, the producer of Whale Rider. He takes on Barnett’s call for an end to "cultural apartheid," referring to apartheid as the "A" word from his Maori perspective. He calls out the lack of funding for Indigenous filmmakers from the national pool of funding, and he questions who gets to call which stories "universal."
What strikes you as important for us to take with us as we continue to study films about and from other cultures? How does this letter relate to emic and etic perspectives? What light does it shed on the business and funding of filmmaking? How do you use this letter to help you grow as a transnational film viewer? How does it impact your responses to Whale Rider? These are some ways you can develop your reflections on Barclay’s letter. Your reflection should be at least five sentences and must include a quotation from Barclay’s text.
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