ONCE WERE WARRIORS
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“In a violent relationship, it takes a mother's strength to save herself and her children from the man she loved. “ONCE WERE WARRIORS is a violent love story set against a contemporary urban backdrop. “Eighteen years after Jake and Beth Heke married in the first flush of teenage love, it's easy to see why Beth found him irresistible. Jake is a muscular handsome man who exudes an explosive sexual energy. Even now, five kids later, he can still arouse Beth with one look.
“The Auckland production company Communicado bought the rights to Alan Duff’s novel Once Were Warriors almost immediately after it was published in 1990. The book then went on to become a New Zealand best seller. “ONCE WERE WARRIORS appealed because its story was contemporary, urban and controversial, says producer Robin Scholes. "To my mind the history of New Zealand films contained too many polite stories which were distanced from everyday life."
“Festival/Awards: 1994 NZ Film Awards - Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Film Score, Best Soundtrack, Best Editing, Best Performance in a Dramatic Role (Male), Best Performance in a Supporting Role (Female), Best Juvenile Performance; 1994 Durban Film Festival - Best Film; 1994 Montreal Film Festival - Best Film, Best Actress, Most Popular Film, Ecumenical Jury Award; 1994 Venice Film Festival - Anica-Flash Best First Film Award; 1994 Hawaii Film Festival - Special Jury Award; 1998 Fantasporto Film Festival Portugal - Best Actress; 1995 Rotterdam Film Festival - Best Film, Special Jury Award; 1995 Santa Barbara Film Festival - Best Actress; 1995 San Diego Film Festival - Best Actress; 1995 Asia Pacific Film Festival - Best Supporting Actress; 1995 Australian Film Institure Awards - Best Foreign Film; 1995 Australian Critics Award - Best Foreign Film (jointly with Heavenly Creatures); 1995 SFFC, Antwerp Belgium - Social Film Prize; 2002 Summer School Film Festival-Czech Rep.” - New Zealand Film Commission; www.nzfilm.co.nz/film/once-were-warriors; 5/02/2014.
At release Once Were Warriors was the highest grossing New Zealand film and has won numerous international awards. See staff for access to publicity documentation, reviews and essays.
“Once Were Warriors is a violent love story set against a contemporary urban backdrop. Eighteen years after Jake and Beth Heke married in the first flush of teenage love, it’s easy to see why Beth found him irresistible. Jake is a muscular handsome man who exudes an explosive sexual energy. Even now, five kids later, he can still arouse Beth with one look. But Jake spends most of his time at the pub proving his manhood with his fists. And if Beth answers back, she’s likely to get the same treatment. At home, Beth struggles to keep the family together but the violence is taking its toll” - (commercial release video cover)
“The only colors Maori had available to them for hundreds and hundreds of years were black, red, and white. These are predominantly themes in Maori art and culture. Even though we were making this film about an alienated urban family, I wanted to keep these very earthy, organic colors saturated into the picture. So through a filtering process which we did in the laboratory in order to enrich skin tones, we got a good, rich sepia look. And then, art direction-wise, we took every primary color out, except red, and just had it black, gray, and brown. It gets into your psyche, that’s the stuff that cinema can do so well.” - (Robert Sklar, “Social Realism with Style, an interview with Lee Tamahori”, Cineaste )
“It could be argued that Tamahori overdoes the level of violence, over- stating his point and risking the alienation of his target audience. But this is an in-your-face slice of realism, and the violence is certainly not exaggerated. Rena Owen plays Beth with distinction, creating a believably passionate woman whose life hasn’t turned out the way she planned. As Jake, Temuera Morrison manages to invest this brutal, shiftless character with charm...” - (David Stratton, Variety, May 30, 1994)