A cultural exchange trip to Aotearoa (New Zealand) marked a significant turning point in history of the ATAYAL organization.
Participants from the 2012 Wairoa Maori Film Festival in Nuhaka, New Zealand.
Executive Director Tony Coolidge traveled to Aotearoa (New Zealand) from May 30-June 6, 2012 to conduct cultural exchange activities on behalf of the ATAYAL organization. He was invited by Leo Koziol to represent Voices in the Clouds at the 2012 Wairoa Film Festival. The film festival featured Maori films, as well as films from other indigenous cultures. Voices in the Clouds won the award for "Best International Indigenous Film" category. When watching the film, members of the Maori community was surprised by the similarities between their culture and that of the indigenous people of Taiwan, and they are eager to learn more. Mr. Coolidge invited a group of Maori students to visit Taiwan, launching the Taproot Cultural Exchange Program and starting filming for the new made-for-TV movie, "Beyond Hawaiki."
Traveling with Tony Coolidge was South African filmmaker and photographer Tobie Openshaw. Mr. Openshaw was chosen to accompany Tony to document the trip and to shoot scenes for the "Beyond Hawaiki" film project. His resourceful talents and extensive experience in the film industry make him an asset for the ATAYAL organization's production.
Tobie Openshaw takes photos during a tour of TVNZ in Auckland.
View a photo journal of the New Zealand Exchange Trip below. Click on the the small photos to see a larger version of the photo.
Ella Henry picks us up at the Auckland International Airport.
We were picked up at the airport by Ella Henry, who is a professor at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in the Maori Development department. She is also a well-known Maori film producer and television personality in New Zealand. Driving from the airport, she told us that the Dean of her Department said he was interested in supporting our Taproot Cultural Exchange Program. Ella brought us to TVNZ and introduced us to people in key positions. The Programming Director of the Maori Television Department expressed interest in cooperating on our film project, Beyond Hawaiki. After a short rest at the Copthorne Hotel, Tobie and I took a taxi into downtown Auckland to look around, and then we attended a networking function as special guests of Nga Aho Whakaari (Maori in Film, Video and Television) at the offices of Kiwa Media. Tobie and I introduced Voices in the Clouds and our new film project. During a presentation, we discovered the new technology developed by Kiwa Media and its Maori founders. The interactive applications QBook and QMusic will be valuable resources for education and media for Taiwan in the future. We made new friends in the entertainment industry, and it was a beautiful first day in New Zealand.
The 1-hour Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Gisborne was on this small propellor-driven airplane.
Ella Henry and Whetu Fala picked us up at our hotel, and we went to the Auckland Domestic Airport to catch a Air New Zealand flight on a small, propellor-driven airplane to Gisborne, New Zealand. Flying over the North Island on a clear morning, we could make out lush, green hills and farmland below us. At the Gisborne Airport, Ella rented a car and Whetu drove us to Nuhaka, the site of the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. The drive through the countryside was beautiful. We unloaded our luggage in our rooms at the Morere Tearooms & Camping Grounds in Nuhaka and proceeded to the Kahungunu Marae. A marae is a traditional Maori community center that is affiliated with a specific family. The Kahungunu Marae was an impeccable example of what a traditional marae should look like, with intricate carvings and decorations. As we arrived, we were greeted in the traditional Maori fashion. A Maori healer sang a prayer at the door, and once inside, the leaders sang Maori songs to us. The visitors also sang Maori songs as greetings, and left a small gift on the floor. The film festival began that afternoon, and we watched Ella Henry's film that she made for her PhD thesis and watched many more films well into the night. Before going to bed in the cold, dark night, we had a nightcap with one of the filmmakers, a Samoan named Nikki Si'ulepa, who screened her film, Passage to Rotuma. Falling was difficult as the night air was a chilly 8 degrees Celsius, but the thick blankets and space heater did eventually help.
Tony with the young Maori lead actress from the film, Whangai Girl.
After a delicious breakfast of bacon and omelettes at the marae, I gave a short speech about fundraising for film projects. Most people there hadn't heard of Kickstarter.com. This was a full day of watching films. It was truly a time to learn about different aspects of Maori culture. The films touched on many social issues. Many films, like "Te Hono Ki Aotearoa" were inspirational and emotional. I especially enjoyed meeting the young 13-yr-old actors from a Maori school that was the site of the film, "Whangai Girl." Around 2:00 pm, we screened Voices in the Clouds. It was received very well, and I quickly shared about future projects of the ATAYAL Organization. Leo Koziol hosted a formal dinner and we had an awards ceremony afterwards. He acknowledged the filmmakers who traveled from other countries (Australia, Taiwan and Canada). I was surprised that Voices in the Clouds won the award for Best International Indigenous Film. The dinner was an eventful social gathering that allowed us to really get to know the other filmmakers and the festival supporters. The event ended with a traditional Haka performance, live music, and karaoke. We returned to our hotel late in the evening, and I stayed up talking to Nicola Mere Baker, the filmmaker who made Whangai Girl, her sister, and two cousins. She is a Maori who was living in Australia, and I took the opportunity to learn more about Maori culture.
The Maori students who will take part in the Taproot Cultural Exchange Program.
We slept in a bit and had brunch at the marae. We resumed the day's schedule of films. Watching the eye-opening film titled Operation 8 really opened my eyes as to the paranoia and rights abuses of the New Zealand government in the past. There is still much distrust by the government and Maori of each other. Tobie filmed interviews with the Maori students as well as with two other notable Maori people in the film industry. The interviews were very moving, and Tobie mentioned that he believed they had so much inspiration and cultural pride to offer to the indigenous people of Taiwan. We also took a short bus trip to Blacks Beach in Nuhaka to film scenes of the coast and shots of our Maori students. The beach was not far from where Maori first landed in New Zealand, and the scene was just breathtaking. In the evening, we soaked in the Mohere hot pools near our hotel with our Maori students. These saltwater hot springs are very special, as there are only three saltwater hot springs in the world. At night, we spent a lot of time getting to know the film students from AUT and South Seas Film School. These are the students who will travel to Taiwan for the Taproot Cultural Exchange Program. Tobie and I decided that they are perfect for us, being students who were well-versed in Maori culture, and they were also trained in filmmaking. We learned that they usually have 3 months off from school from November-January, so the Taproot Cultural Exchange Program can be tentatively set for the end of November 2013.
The Maori students perform a traditional haka dance.
We caught the bus at 9:00 am to the Kahungunu Marae to say goodbye to everyone. There was a farewell song, and everyone thanked Leo and the festival staff. Tobie filmed the Maori students performing a traditional Haka dance. Tobie and I decided to take the 8 hour bus ride with the students back to Auckland instead of the 1-hour airplane ride. We felt it was a good opportunity to see the countryside and to get to know our students better. We arrived in Auckland at around 6:30 pm, and Leo Koziol arranged for our stay at the Surrey Hotel.
An exhibit on Pacific Austronesian cultures in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Tobie and I spent the day touring Auckland University of Technology (AUT) after Ella Henry picked us up from the hotel. We toured the Maori Development Department and the media technology lab. We took a side trip to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It was truly impressive. There was a live Maori culture show, which we filmed, and we took photos of many of the Austronesian exhibits. We noticed a large map showing Taiwan as part of the Austronesian group of Pacific islands, but I noticed there were no displays from Taiwan in the exhibit. Walking through the museum also gave us a good education on New Zealand's history. Before we left for the airport, we just had time to film a short interview with Ella Henry. We had a lovely dinner at Genghis Khan Mongolian Barbecue buffet restaurant with Ellyce Mcleod before she dropped us off at the airport. The flights to Hong Kong and Taiwan were very peaceful, filled with warm memories and anticipation of future visits.
The trip to Aotearoa gave us important relationships in New Zealand that will facilitate the ATAYAL Organization's projects. We found the core group of Maori students who will participate in the Taproot Cultural Exchange Program, which is tentatively scheduled for late November 2013. There may be relationships developed between Auckland University of Technology and Dong Hwa University in Taiwan, as well as a relationship between the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory. Relationships with Leo Koziol and a host of Maori filmmakers will make it possible to host an Austronesian Film Festival at a later date in Taiwan.
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