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‘Whina’ – Review

‘Whina’ – Review

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Matariki is upon us, and in this celebration of past, present and future, there is no better piece of cinema to watch than James Napier Robertson and Paula Whetu Jones’ Whina. Chronicling the story of beloved activist Dame Whina Cooper, who stood up for what she believed in, and in doing so would change all of Aotearoa New Zealand in the process.

The story of Dame Whina Cooper (Rena Owen, Miriama McDowell), the beloved Māori matriarch who worked tirelessly to improve the rights of her people, especially women. Flawed yet resilient, Whina tells the story of a woman formed by tradition, compelled by innovation, and guided by an instinct for equality and justice whose legacy as the Te Whaea o te Motu (Mother of the Nation) was an inspiration to an entire country.

Of great importance to the history, culture and people of New Zealand is Dame Whina Cooper, a woman of immense mana and spirit whose actions would change the course of Aotearoa New Zealand forever. Now her story is brought to the screen by co-directors James Napier Robertson and Paula Whetu Jones, and these two filmmakers present the extraordinary life of a woman who stood up for what she believed in no matter how hard things got. And by having such conviction in her principles, she would change her nation forever.

Delivered with immense respect and dignity, Whina is a film that chronicles all of Dame Whina Cooper’s life. Beginning with her role as a pioneering social activist in the late 1940s through to the early 1960s, to her leadership of the Māori Land March in 1975, Whina is a powerful recreation of history on screen which will impact all viewers.

In a unique narrative presentation, Napier Roberston and Whetu Jones tell their story through two gifted performers, Rena Owen and Miriama McDowell, who both bring Cooper’s life to realism on the big screen. As the young Cooper, McDowell shows a fierce dramatic strength and the will to not back down from seeing that the right things are done. There’s inspirational energy that shines through in her performance as Cooper in the picture. In her performance, McDowell captures Dame Cooper’s love and passion for all of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, and her desire to see them treated justly is powerful in its presentation. Kiwi acting legend Rena Owen brings out Cooper’s strength in her later life as she works to lead her people on the famous hikoi march, and she’s one tough old lady who makes sure that the right things are seen too.

For the citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand, Whina is a powerful and impactful film. Its historical lessons on the nation’s history and those who stood up for what is right in it will make it an endearing watch to all who see it. Napier Roberston and Whetu Jones bring meticulous attention to detail in their presentation of this picture, and this focus on presenting this important part of history is sure to leave an impact on audiences.

For audiences who are seeking to celebrate Matariki and its blessings of a new season and a new year, Whina makes for the perfect watch. A tribute to an important and dignified woman who worked to make Aotearoa New Zealand a place for all people, Whina is a touching and moving tribute to her character, strength and the values that she maintained over her life.

Image: Transmission Films