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Making Utu

On location during filming of Utu. Digital framegrab from Making Utu. Courtesy of Gaylene Preston.

Director Gaylene Preston

With Gaylene Preston, Annabel Cooper

Curated by Annabel Cooper

A behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of legendary 1983 film Utu inspired by the New Zealand Wars. Stay on for a kōrero with director Dame Gaylene Preston and Annabel Cooper. 

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is delighted to co-present this screening with the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata in support of the exhibition He Riri Awatea: Filming the New Zealand Wars .

'Gaylene Preston’s 1983 TV documentary celebrates the chutzpah, ingenuity and burgeoning national pride of a bunch of young cowboys out in the wild making the epic New Zealand movie of their dreams. Training her camera on the face of assistant director Lee Tamahori as the rebel Te Wheke and his gang throw a grand piano to its spectacular demise, she captured for all time an essential satisfaction of movie-making for boys: making stuff and wrecking it. (In the case of Utu, once they’d wrecked a set, they’d reassemble the pieces into another set.) Preston is also memorably attentive to Utu’s moment in the advancement of popular biculturalism. A Pākehā-generated project (entitled ‘Puha Western’ in its development stage), Utu was more invested in tikanga Māori than any feature film since the works of Rudall Hayward. (You can hear the novelty of te reo in the mouths of Māori and Pākehā actor alike.) Director Geoff Murphy wants authenticity. It is fascinating to see how willingly, and how tentatively, all concerned consider who can tell whom how to get it right.' – New Zealand International Film Festival 2013.

DAME GAYLENE PRESTON is a national treasure, with an exceptional career over more than four decades. An innovative writer, director, and producer, Gaylene has insisted that it is possible to live in New Zealand and contribute New Zealand stories to global cinema, and her award-winning work has screened extensively at international festivals including Venice, Sundance, and Toronto.

ANNABEL COOPER is co-curator for the exhibition He Riri Awatea: Filming the New Zealand Wars and author of Filming the Colonial Past: The New Zealand Wars on Screen (Otago University Press, 2018).

Image credit: On location during filming of Utu. L-R Richard Bluck, Lee Tamahori, Graeme Cowley, Paul Leach (obscured). Digital framegrab from Making Utu (1983). Courtesy of Gaylene Preston

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