“Cousins” (M) *** and a half
THE closing frames of this emotionally-intense NZ drama include a dedication to three inspirational M?ori women – Merata Mita, Irihapeti Ramsden and Nancy Brunning.
Mita was a pioneering M?ori filmmaker who wanted to turn M?ori writer Patricia Grace’s 1992 novel into a movie. Ramsden was a nurse, anthropologist and writer who worked to improve health outcomes for M?ori people. Brunning was an influential actor, writer and director taken by cancer in 2019.
Co-directors Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace Smith (who also adapted the novel and plays one of the film’s principal women) have given their film an intensity that examines the status of M?ori women from, in one case, kindergarten to old age.
That brief summation covers many sins and many virtues on the part of M?oris and the descendants of the Europeans who came two centuries ago, settled and in 1840 made a treaty (of Waitangi) with the country’s indigenous people.
The film’s plot combines simple behaviours of characters with complex relationships, during the years between the 20th century’s inter-bellum and when Patricia Grace wrote the book. I came away from it feeling that despite the treaty, there is still a palpable similarity between how the countries on the eastern and western sides of the ditch govern the co-existence of the two countries’ indigenous races.
This is not to say that watching the film is hard work. It’s visually beautiful. While it’s fiction, it projects an admirable authenticity. I came away from it regretting my NZ-born wife’s inability to have seen it with me.
At Dendy and Palace Electric