Film captures moko connection

Wanaka film-maker Darren Simmonds (second from right) and crew members work behind the camera shooting the award-winning Maori film Inc'd, inside Invercargill's Murihiku marae. Photo supplied.
Wanaka film-maker Darren Simmonds (second from right) and crew members work behind the camera shooting the award-winning Maori film Inc'd, inside Invercargill's Murihiku marae. Photo supplied.
Nearly a tenth of their shoestring film budget was soaked up by Auckland parking fees alone, yet Wanaka duo Darren Simmonds and Ian Bowmer still managed to scoop a string of accolades at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival last weekend.

The men co-produced Inc'd, a 15-minute film directed by Mr Simmonds and starring Auckland actor Rob Mokaraka as the central character Gary - a high-flying Maori corporate lawyer in Sydney who returns to New Zealand for his father's tangi.

Gary is ''really challenged by his culture and where his heart and allegiance lies'' once back home in Otago, Mr Simmonds (39) explained.

The character tries to reconcile the two worlds by getting a full-face moko, which is met with condemnation by his Sydney work colleagues, prompting him to return to his whanau in New Zealand.

Mr Simmonds was warned before attending the North Island festival he would be up against it as a ''Pakeha telling a Maori story ... in the thick of Maori territory''.

However, the film was well-received by the audience, several of whom thanked the filmmakers for telling the story.

''It was really interesting for them that an outsider came in to tell a Maori story and they had been inspired and had learnt from the experience of watching it.''

Inc'd won best short film and best actor for Mr Mokaraka's performance - both voted by the audience - and an award to attend next year's Te Nati Film Festival in Tahiti, where the film will be screened.

Shot in Auckland, Queenstown, Invercargill and Sydney, the film was produced using a $10,000 grant from Short Film Otago, funded by the Otago Community Trust. Some extra financial assistance came from the Southern Institute of Technology's film school, which also provided accommodation and students as crew during the Invercargill shoot.

''We're really proud of the fact that for a really small budget we really achieved a lot. Just our parking bill in Auckland was $1000 for cast and crew,'' Mr Simmonds said.

''People just really gave a lot of time and energy for free ... on the merit of the story.''

They were grateful to Cyril Gilroy and the kaumatua at Murihiku marae in Invercargill for permitting them to film the funeral footage there and ''trusting us that we were going to show them and their marae and their story in a good light'', Mr Simmonds said.

''It's quite a rare thing ... especially to be shooting a tangi scene in a marae.''

Mr Bowmer (40) said the acting talents of Mr Mokaraka had also been ''integral'' to the success of the film, which features in the line-up for the New Zealand International Film Festival this year. It will screen soon in Wanaka.

The men have a feature film in development and are applying to screen Inc'd at several other international film festivals.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz