Mahana DVD Review

DVD Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
Inspired by Witi Ihimaera novel Bulibasha, Mahana sees director Lee Tamahori making his first film on local soil since a very different family tale: 1994's Once Were Warriors. Set in the 1960s, Mahana stars Temuera Morrison as a proud farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have absolutely nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and son Simeon sets out to find out how the feud first got started.

The Review
The movie starts off with a hiss and then a roar and then a full on car race between the Mahana whanau and the Poata whanau. The plot quickly stamps its mark onto this period piece; 'A New Zealand 'coming of age' drama. The very charismatic and much liked Temuera Morrison, who plays the modern chief of a very structured and controlled Maori sheep shearing family, is the first recognizable face to grace the screen. His character, Mahana Senior, is dedicated to the goal of keeping his family, 'the Mahana whanau', at the very top of this rural sheep shearing town. In reality, he's a hot headed control freak who expects everything of value and worth to be paid for with blood, sweat and tears. Because that's how he did it. He inflects the toughest and most unreasonable working regime upon his sons and their respective families. The whole of his whanau humbly abide by everyone of his outrageous demands except for one grandson, Simeon, who continually finds himself on the wrong of his grandfather.

In the opening scenes Morrison's character and his wife are preparing to attend the funeral of the head of the major sheep farming family in the local area. Mahana knows that he needs a very important first hand shake, at the deceased funeral, to ensure that the Mahana shearing contract remains intact. So he will stop at nothing to make sure that his family is the first to shake the hand of the new boss. The film cuts between Morrison and his sons and their families. Mahana senior is calm, precise and controlled as he readies himself. His family is panicked, rushed and confused. This contrast in power is a theme that runs throughout the story and sets up the major plot which is really centered around the struggle between the grandfather and grandson.
The movie is laced with good laughs and plenty of giggles throughout. Nice to experience the Maori sense of humour in pockets here and there. The story is also provocative and has it's moments of grave seriousness and drama. There is also a particular scene, that I won't talk too much about, that certainly had me thinking 'Once Were Warriors'. I'm referring to the brutal side of the Warriors film. But don't be put off by that. It's brief but important to the plot. And at other times it delivers the simple pleasures of life such as watching a young teenage love blossom. 
Mahana certainly supplies us with a meaningful story and thoughtful plot which kept me interested throughout. There are also some good performances from younger actors whose characters grow on you as the movie progresses. And there are also the enjoyable performances from the more seasoned actors such as Morrison, who really does 'steal' every scene that he is in.

The Verdict
An enjoyable watch for many people that attended the preview and I'm sure it will be enjoyed by the many that have yet to see it. Mahana is a well shot and directed movie. I can imagine that this film will appeal to a wide range of audiences and in particular families. There are lots of scenes that are very touching and also scenes that will leave you gob smacked. A well-received film from an international audience that has a certain rural appeal that New Zealand film makers seem to have mastered. It was great to see so many new actors involved, Maori and Pakeha. Mahana is a real testament to what can be achieved with a Community Funded project. 

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 13th July 2016
Rating: M - Sexual references & content that may offend
Duration: 102 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Temuera Morrison, Nancy Brunning and Jim Moriarty
Director: Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors)