Story: Feature film

Once were warriors, 1994

This film is a long way from the romantic visions of Māori society produced in the early years of New Zealand cinema. Jake the Muss (an explosive Temuera Morrison) is the hardest man in his grim South Auckland neighbourhood. His family suffer a series of traumas at the hands of Jake and his associates (notably a sleazy Cliff Curtis). Directed by Lee Tamahori, and adapted from Alan Duff's novel, the film's brutal hyper-realism stirred controversy among both Māori and Pākehā. Yet it launched Tamahori's Hollywood directing career and pulled in audiences both locally and worldwide, becoming New Zealand's highest-grossing film to that date. Watch this short documentary on the making of Once were warriors.

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NZ On Screen
Reference: Once were warriors - behind the scenes. Producer, Robin Scholes; director, Lee Tamahori; writer, Riwia Brown. Communicado, 1994.

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How to cite this page:

Helen Martin, 'Feature film - The 1990s: deregulation, accolades and a maturing industry', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 June 2024)

Story by Helen Martin, published 22 Oct 2014, reviewed & revised 21 May 2024 with assistance from Emma-Jean Kelly