Waru – movie review

by Peter Calder / 01 November, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Waru

Stylistic boldness and an implicit call to arms make Waru a breathtaking watch.

A compendium of eight short films that meld into an impressive whole, Waru is a movie whose title character we never see. We hear him, though – his voice is the film’s first: “When I died, I saw the whole world,” he tells us in a breathy voiceover.

So a child’s death, the result, we soon gather, of neglect or abuse or both, is the impelling event, but we never see that, either. Rather the eight films (waru is Māori for eight), each named for its central female character, explore the lives of the people in the wider whānau and hapū.

Their stories brush against each other in time and space and even briefly overlap (though I noticed only one character who appeared twice), but combine to shine a light on the idea that, in contrast to the liberal piety, it may take a village to kill a child.

They do so within precise formal restraints: each film is a single shot; each lasts 10 minutes and its action purports to begin at 10am. It sounds like a gimmick, an antipodean Dogme, but as it slowly brings the concurrent realities of its stories into focus, it becomes a powerful tool.

Roimata Fox as Anahera in one of Waru’s eight segments.

The nuanced, crisply written pieces are full of telling moments only glanced at, but others are confronted head-on: this doesn’t always work – a sequence about the media is a bit heavy-handed – but when it does, it’s mind-altering. The film in which two kuia argue over where Waru’s body should lie, a ritualised encounter that Pakehā so often misunderstand, feels like an epicentre of sorts.

It’s a film about the damage done and the guilt carried, but it’s not as grim as that sounds. Indeed, to watch it is a thrilling, exhilarating experience, not just for its stylistic adventurousness but for the implicit call to arms: if there’s a key scene – the one that left me struggling to breathe – it’s the one that ends with a man asking, “What did she f---ing say?”

That line touches the pulse of it: it’s a women’s film in all senses of that phrase, but it makes the same demand of all of us: that we do confront the depth of our failure to understand, and that we do not turn our backs.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★★1/2

This article was first published in the October 28, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Saziah Bashir: 4 things you should do following the Christchurch terror attack
103634 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

Saziah Bashir: 4 things you should do following th…

by Saziah Bashir

What can we do? Where to from here? People have to recognise the Muslim community is grieving.

Read more
Captain Marvel is a rare movie in Marvel Cinematic Universe
103595 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Movies

Captain Marvel is a rare movie in Marvel Cinematic…

by Russell Baillie

Starring Brie Larson as lead superheroine​, Captain Marvel actually gets better as it goes on.

Read more
Why Bill Cunningham was a rare creature in fashion
103319 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Books

Why Bill Cunningham was a rare creature in fashion…

by Linda Herrick

Affable fashionista Bill Cunningham takes readers behind the scenes in the world of haute couture.

Read more
Four must-read books to counter Islamophobia
103636 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Books

Four must-read books to counter Islamophobia

by Jenny Nicholls

An introduction to the writers who will help you see through toxic misinformation about Islam.

Read more
Measles outbreak: Fears virus could become endemic again
103624 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Health

Measles outbreak: Fears virus could become endemic…

by RNZ

ESR public health physician Jill Sherwood said history showed the uptake of vaccinations would decide whether measles would once again get a foothold.

Read more
Could a tropical sea cucumber hold the key to treating cancer?
103622 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Health

Could a tropical sea cucumber hold the key to trea…

by Sharon Stephenson

A search for new anti-cancer treatments led chemistry specialist Taitusi Taufa to the warm waters of his birthplace in Tonga.

Read more
Dîner en Blanc: What is it and why does everyone secretly want to go?
103618 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Dining

Dîner en Blanc: What is it and why does everyone s…

by Alex Blackwood

For the last five years, thousands of Aucklanders have also donned their best whites, converging at a secret location to drink and dine in style.

Read more
New Symonds Street bar Save Ferris is a tribute to arcade games
103593 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

New Symonds Street bar Save Ferris is a tribute to…

by Alex Blackwood

Save Ferris is an ode to the past.

Read more