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New Zealand in the 1960s. Tamahani Mahana, patriarch of the Mahana Family, rules his clan with an iron fist- Only 14-year-old Simeon dares to rebel and even question the feud with the Poata family.


The Maori family epic MAHANA from Lee Tamahori (ONCE WERE WARRIORS) is set in the 60s. The most imposing character in the film which you immediately meet in all of his authoritarian glory is the family patriarch, grandfather Tamahani Mahana. He stands there with his wife Ramona on the porch of the family home and checks his pocket watch while the kids and grandchildren squeeze into the car in order not to be late. When they arrive his first words are „you’re too late!“ 14 year old Simeon is the only one who dares to speak up and say “just by a minute“ for which he is called to order by both sides.
The Mahanas are a shearer dynasty. Tamahani built the empire in his youth; he secured the shearing rights from the biggest farmer in the area, acquired land, and built houses for his children, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren. Belonging to the Mahana clan means feeling secure and being relatively well-to-do, but there is also an age-old feud attached with the privilege. The Mahanas arch enemies are the Poatas, who are also shearers. The Mahanas and the Poatas want the same shearing rights and compete in the shearing contest against each other every year. But that alone isn’t enough to explain their profound hatred for each other or the vehemence with which Tamahani Simeon is forbidden from flirting with a Poata girl.
While the rest of the family cowers before Tamahani – the older ones because they know how much the patriarch has achieved and the younger ones because they are afraid of losing security – Simeon, who feels more grown up than he is, keeps protesting. It’s small things like mumbles at the lunch table but things escalate with a discussion about white “pakeha“ cinema and Tamahani banishes Simeon and his entire family from his charge. The banishing is seen as a crushing hit, an example to other family members, and Tamahani is probably waiting for them to beg for his forgiveness. The opposite of that happens. The release from the patriarchal regime is the beginning of their emancipation. The scenes where the family builds their new home are some of the loveliest in the film. They work on the roof together. They hire themselves out as farm hands and work for little money. Despite their worries you can sense how they are breathing freely. They compete against the Poatas and team “Mahana 1“ in the next shearing competition.
The model for MAHANA is the family saga BULIBASHA: KING OF THE GYPSIES by Witi Ihimaera who also wrote the book “Whale Rider.“ Lee Tamahori has made a classic family epic that is filmed at such a leisurely pace that the ending comes as almost a surprise. The bright images celebrate the landscape, the work, which granted the older generation their place in society, and the bonds of Maori families. You can even sense the bond in the tough conflicts that Simeon and Tamahani have.

Toni Ohms

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Mahana
Neuseeland 2016, 104 min
Genre: Action, Drama, Historical Film
Director: Lee Tamahori
Author: John Collee
DOP: Ginny Loane
Montage: Michael Horton, Jonathan Woodford-Robinson
Music: Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper, Tama Waipara
Distributor: Prokino Filmverleih
Cast: Temuera Morrison, Akuhata Keefe, Nancy Brunning
FSK: 12
Release: 01.09.2016




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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