Memory of the World

We are thrilled to announce that Patu! has been inscripted onto the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register for documentary heritage.

The most controversial, and the most contested, event in recent New Zealand history was the 1981 South African rugby tour. Half the country opposed the tour, the establishment was determined it would go ahead; the result was the largest and most sustained period of civil disobedience in our recent history. Created from the point of view of those who were against the tour by a large collective of people pulled together by veteran documentary maker, Merata Mita, Patu! records a watershed moment in New Zealand history, documenting the violence between protestors and police during this time. The footage was gathered under very difficult, sometimes dangerous, conditions and was subject to efforts by authorities to seize the material. Patu! is the best example we have of activist film making in New Zealand.

We are delighted that such an important part of our country’s documentary heritage has been acknowledged by UNESCO. Patu! is a landmark film that continues to resonate, and lives on as an educational and cultural resource, as the impact of the tour continues to be assessed and researched both at home and internationally.

When acclaimed director, writer and producer Merata Mita passed away suddenly in 2010 she left an indelible mark on film making in New Zealand. Film Archive Kaiwhakahaere: Deputy Chief Executive Huia Kopua says “Merata was undoubtedly one of the most courageous and outstanding talents of our times.  Her insightful perspective and relentless quest to elucidate indigenous reality through the art of storytelling has offered clarity and perspective to a range of audiences, both national and international.”

When speaking of the process of making Patu! Merata stated “I was asked repeatedly if I thought I was the right person to make the film, or why I was making it. The reason I was asked the question was that some people told me they feared that the film would not be accurate because it would have a Maori perspective! … Yes, Patu! has a Maori perspective but it does not override the mass mobilisation of New Zealand’s white middle class, neither does it take credit from those who rightly deserve it, everyone who put themselves on the line. My perspective encourages people to look at themselves and examine the ground they stand on, while fighting racial injustice thousands of miles across the sea.”

The theatrical length release of Patu!, and material from which the final documentary feature was created, as well as additional material on the same subject is held in the New Zealand Film Archive collection. In recent years Patu! has screened at a number of international festivals and tribute presentations, including the All Roads Festival, Washington DC; the Deep Waters Festival, Hawaii; the Toronto International Film Festival; as the centre piece of the exhibition “The Rise and Fall of Apartheid” at the International Centre for Photography, New York; and most recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair in support of New Zealand's status as Country of Honour. Patu! will screen at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.

Also inscripted yesterday were Maori Land Court Minute Books from the 19th century which document the early years of the Native Land Courts and record the hearings and evidence given to establish the Native Land Court titles across New Zealand.

Announcing the new inscriptions yesterday, Chair of UNESCO’S Memory of the World Asia Pacific Programme, Ray Edmondson, said the minute books and Patu! tell stories of events from two powerful periods of New Zealand history. They still have an impact on society today and are highly regarded as invaluable sources of research by historians, Maori researchers, educators and many others in the wider community.

New Zealand’s Memory of the World Programme was established in 2010 and is part of the international community working to promote the importance of documentary heritage through UNESCO. The register is the flagship and promotes the nation’s heritage stories to the wider community in New Zealand and overseas. UNESCO recognition draws attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the institutions that are their custodians. Inscription on the register raises awareness of the institutions holdings and ensures they are protected and supported.