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To Love A Maori

The best thing about To Love a Maori is that it depicts with fidelity an important phase of life and experience in ‘the largest Polynesian city in the world.’ This film was yelling out to be made

To Love a Maori, New Zealand, 1972

Directors & producers: Rudall Hayward, Ramai Hayward
Production co: Rudall and Ramai Hayward Film Productions
Screenplay: Rudall Hayward, Ramai Hayward, Diane Francis
Camera: Alton Francis
Camera assistants: Randall Francis, Rowan Francis, Abel Francis
Editors: Rudall Hayward, Alton Francis
Music director: Ray Gunter
Sound: Alton Francis
Choreography: Metanga Kingi

With: Val Irwin (Tama), Marie Searell (Penny), Sybil Locke (Penny’s mother), Desmond Locke (Penny’s father), Rau Hotere (Riki), Toby Curtis (Tama’s father), Olive Pompallier (Tama’s mother), Vincent Sharpe (Mr Lukers), Ramai Hayward (Tama’s aunty)

16mm, colour, 103 minutes, G

Originally classified S—suitable for family audiences. The classification “S” (Special note) was created by Censor Gordon Mirams, and only ever used by him to denote a special note – in this case that the film was suitable for family.

Described by director Rudall Hayward as “a romantic documentary made on half a shoestring”, To Love a Maori tells the story of two young Maori men who travel from their country marae to Auckland. There they face racial discrimination in many areas. One of them, Tama, falls in love with a Pakeha student dancer, Penny whose parents strongly object to their relationship. The film reveals some of the social problems of the time, many scenes in and around Auckland in the early seventies, and spectacular New Zealand landscape. It tells a poignant love story.

“All locations have been chosen and photographed with fastidious care. Although Mr Hayward has never halted the swift march of the narrative by excessive regard for scenic effects, his film emphasises most of Auckland’s best features and there are also some beautiful beach and bush sequences depicting life in the East Coast area near Te Kaha… Fundamentally, it is a movie with a message. Its propagandist purpose, within the context of a simple love story, is never disguised. Indeed, the emphasis on a substantial element of hypocrisy and smug self-deceit in the familiar assertion that New Zealand is almost wholly without racial prejudice, could be criticised as overdone. Mr Hayward has set out to stir our national conscience. But he has done more. He has contrived to relate a love story which we can all accept and enjoy. It has, like much else in the film, the bright ring of truth, thanks largely to the spontaneity and sincerity of his two young players, Marie Searell and Val Irwin. Both parts are played with genuine conviction rather than glossy professionalism. Miss Searell comes across as a happy, essentially out-giving girl, completely devoid of colour consciousness, determined to follow her heart’s dictates whatever the hardships. Mr Irwin, accenting the inherent politeness of the Maori in social contacts, gives a convincing portrayal of a young Maori bent on learning a skilled trade and in behaving amid all the distractions of city life, according to the best traditions of a proud, dignified race… Mr Hayward’s film is so enjoyable to watch that it is easy to disregard the fact that only a few of the cast have had any experience in acting… The best thing about Mr Hayward’s film is that it depicts with fidelity an important phase of life and experience in ‘the largest Polynesian city in the world.’ This film was yelling out to be made. Mr Hayward, crowning a lifetime in cinema, has made it with distinction.” — Geoffrey Webster, Whakatane Beacon, 9 February 1972

To Love a Maori, the latest film by Rudall and Ramai Hayward, is a remarkably moving picture of race relationships in New Zealand... Before the first Auckland screening of the film yesterday, Rudall Hayward, the veteran filmmaker, told a selected audience that the film had been made on ‘half a shoe-string’. Unfortunately, this is evident. And mostly in the script. The script takes an impersonal path between characters with the result that both Maori and European actors seem to speak with an unnatural lack of spontaneity. At virtually every turn overstatement works against the film… but the film is of crucial importance to New Zealanders. ‘Prejudice is a social poison,’ Mr Hayward said yesterday. And the poison is faithfully shown at work right here in Auckland… The film ends with a reconciliation, but not without some sensitive and moving scenes which should provoke thought about the real state of our race relations. And on half a shoe-string, that is quite an achievement.” — Paul Smith, NZ Herald, 20 January 1972

"To Love a Maori was the seventh, and last feature made by pioneer filmmaker Rudall Hayward (1900-1974). Hayward spent a lifetime in film, beginning as a nine-year-old in Waihi, as an assistant to the projectionist; he died in 1974 while on the road promoting To Love a Maori. Hayward remains one of New Zealand’s most prolific filmmakers, during his career he made 7 features, numerous newsreels, shorts and 2-reel Community Comedies and many educational films. In many ways, To Love a Maori continues from where John O’Shea’s 1952 classic Broken Barrier, left off, while it wasn’t a commercial success To Love a Maori was welcomed for its stance and because it challenged the myth of New Zealand’s harmonious race relations. To Love a Maori also has the distinction of being the first New Zealand feature film produced in colour." — Diane Pivac

Screenings: To Love A Maori screened on 24 August 2005 as part of 'Rarely Seen, But Important (& Pleasurable)', a season selected by x-Film Commission marketing chief, Lindsay Shelton