A short film directed by Jennifer Ward-Lealand which tackles the growing epidemic of P in Aotearoa has been named Best Picture by public vote at the Wairoa Film Festival this weekend.
Disturb delves into the devastating effects of methamphetamine on a whānau when a grandmother is the only person who refuses to give up on her drug-addicted grandson. It is the directorial debut of Ward-Lealand who is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished actors and industry advocates.
The film won the Tinirau Award, which was voted on by the public who attended a screening of a selection of the best Maori short films at the Gaitey Theater in Wairoa on Saturday night. The award was donated by broadcast veteran Derek Fox and Jaewynn Mackay.
The 13-minute story is written by journalist Aroha Awarau and produced by Maori TV news presenter Peata Melbourne under her new production company, Te Koru Media. The cast includes Kararaina Rangihau, Joe Dekkers-Reihana, Ella Edward, Miriama McDowell and Piripi Taylor.
Disturb also screened at the Beverly Hills International Film Festival in Los Angeles at the same time it starred in Wairoa.
Ward-Lealand says the award shows audiences resonated with the film’s important message.
“The audiences who have responded so positively to our film affirm for us the very reason we wanted to do Disrupt, to see how a family tries to cope with what is a huge problem across Aotearoa. It’s often the small personal story that can affect the biggest change,” says Ward-Lealand.
Melbourne chose Disrupt as her first film as a producer because she wanted to highlight the growing problem of P in all communities. She credits the aroha of the cast, crew, backers, sponsors, and supporters as the reason for the film’s success.
“Our supporters believed in us to make it happen. This victory is for them. We were blessed with our superb and very talented cast and care. I am proud and grateful for the contribution of each of them.
Awarau says he was inspired to write the film after covering many stories about the P epidemic as a print and television journalist and seeing firsthand how the drug had a strong hold on his own whānau.
“I find a lot of movies or stories around drugs, P in particular, to be quite glamorous. So they take place in the gang world or on the streets. And what I had seen was that this issue is actually closer to home for most people,” he says.
The film was funded by Ngā Aho Whakaari, an organization that advocates for Maori working in the screen industry, and supporters who donated to the film through Boosted, a New Zealand crowdfunding site dedicated to the arts . The film was also sponsored by the following organisations: Image Zone, Cordis Hotel and Resorts, Nati 4 Life, St John’s Ambulance and Wireless Rentals.
The annual Wairoa Film Festival celebrates the best of Maori and indigenous films from Aotearoa and around the world. Over the weekend, the festival also honored screen producer Desray Armstrong, who received the WIFT Mana Wahine award.
Festival director Leo Kolziol said the audience was delighted to see a local resident and the lead actress of DisturbKararaina Rangihau, embody on a giant screen the poignant role of a worried kuia.
“There was an incredible collection of Maori films,” says Kolziol. “Audiences were moved by the themes of Disrupt, of hope in the face of the scourge of P.”
Disrupt also screened at the New Zealand and Hawaii International Film Festivals in 2021 and is set to screen at the Maoriland Film Festival in Otaki on June 30.
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