POINTED Post No.5 - Women's Refuge

Here is another piece from my homeland of Aotearoa New Zealand with a dark, raw edge, and a personal connection.

If you’re familiar with the movie Once Were Warriors then it will need no introduction, please scroll down to the final video clip. Or carry on reading below for the context to this powerful bit of filmmaking.

When developed into a movie in 1994, this book became an infamous cultural cornerstone for New Zealanders. It’s a brutal depiction of domestic violence culture and life for many urban māori in Auckland’s poorest suburbs. Even today when I meet new people in the UK , this movie sometimes surfaces in conversation, their vision of New Zealand’s innocence having been rudely burst.

Actor Temuera Morrison and his character ‘Jake the Muss’ became an ironic sort of household name (and certainly made his Star Wars appearance a bit of a joke for NZ audiences). So even two decades later, this superb piece of film by Auckland filmmaking duo FarmerClark would have needed no introduction to kiwis. It’s a raw, behind-the-scenes glimpse into his role as Jake, to help promote the charity Women’s Refuge.

To me, this simple film is incredibly compelling, from the anecdotes to the editing. But maybe it’s part of being a kiwi with that cultural cornerstone of a movie baked in to me – so if you’ve never heard of Once Were Warriors, do watch these clips first for context – though be warned the scene at home is pretty challenging viewing.

Domestic violence scene from Once Were Warriors - watch with caution. Property of NZ On Screen.

There are plenty of connections for me; like growing up one suburb away from where the movie takes place, and memories of trips with my mum to the supermarket which later became the set for the bar. And although the characters and settings are familiar, I was lucky, white, and privileged enough to never encounter that sort of violence myself.

But my older sister, moving in different circles, wasn’t so lucky.

As the third anniversary of her death looms, both the movie and the creative becomes more poignant. Although it was cancer that took her at only 52 years old, I’m convinced the physical, verbal and psychological abuse she suffered over her life had an impact not just in those moments, but on her long term well-being and physiology, giving the cancer an ‘open goal’.

New Zealand continues to have the highest rate of domestic violence in the world. So every bit of creativity and filmmaking skill that can be put to use towards this issue is invaluable.