Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by New Zealand Herald

Hepi Mita reveals his late mother through her groundbreaking filmmaking.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

In the 1970s, Merata Mita broke through barriers of race, class, and gender to become the first Māori woman to write and direct a feature film. Tackling controversial issues of indigenous social justice in both documentaries and fiction, the pioneering activist-filmmaker faced harassment and violence. Persevering, she emerged as one of New Zealand’s best-known filmmakers and a powerful voice for indigenous peoples around the world. Merata was also a longtime advisor to Sundance Institute, and the indigenous artist fellowship bears her name.

In MERATA: HOW MUM DECOLONISED THE SCREEN, Merata’s youngest son, Hepi, crafts a deeply intimate portrait of his late mother. Drawing on footage from Merata’s own work, as well as from interviews with her from before she picked up a camera, Hepi captures Merata as a filmmaker, mother, wife, and mentor. Reflections from his siblings and those she influenced, such as Taika Waititi, underscore the overriding importance Merata placed on family and reveal the personal sacrifices she made to actively create a better future for her children and her people.

Some Background:

  • Hepi Mita

    This is Mita’s directorial debut. The son of filmmakers Merata Mita and Geoff Murphy, he became an archivist for New Zealand’s national film archive, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.


  • Chelsea Winstanley

    Winstanley previously produced the Sundance alumni fiction feature WHAT WE DO IN SHADOWS and short NIGHT SHIFT.

Creative Producer:

  • Te Arepa Kahi

    Actor and filmmaker Kahi was one of the writers of Sundance fiction alum HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE.

Executive Producer:

  • Cliff Curtis

    Curtis previously produced Sundance fiction features BOY and EAGLE VS SHARK, as well as short TAMA TU.


  • Te Rurehe Paki

    This marks Paki’s first Sundance project.

Consulting Editor:

  • Annie Collins

    Collins previously cut Sundance fiction features SHOPPING and SCARFIES.

Why You Should Watch:
As noted in my program description above, Mita, uniquely positioned as both Merata’s son and an archivist, paints a vibrant, far-ranging portrait of his influential mother, demonstrating her importance as an indigenous filmmaker and activist not only within New Zealand, but throughout the world.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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