Review: Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen

Merata Mita and her son

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is a personal journey by Merata Mita’s youngest son through his groundbreaking mother’s life as a filmmaker.

Merata Mita was a Maori woman from New Zealand. She was the first ever Maori woman to make films. The films she made showed the oppression of indigenous people under the colonizers in New Zealand. This did not endear her to the colonials in New Zealand. Her family suffered a great deal as Merata was starting out and practicing her revolutionary art in New Zealand.

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is a straightforward telling of the life of a pioneering woman. Her youngest son, Hepi Mita, had access to archives of her work, including some never made public films. He combined that and interviews with his brothers and sister. He used filmed interviews with Merata from throughout her career. And, Hepi Mita used interviews from some of the people his mother mentored and worked with.

Later in her life Merata gained influence on the world stage and as a contributor to the Sundance Institute. The indigenous artist Sundance fellowship bears her name. Many indigenous artists, including New Zealand’s own Taika Waititi count her as an influence and a mentor.

Merata Mita film clips from Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen

Merata was exceptionally smart and courageous and she wasn’t going to give up no matter the opposition her family faced.

She created or produced documentary films about indigenous peoples who struggled under colonization in many places around the world.

I was very interested in her story. I hadn’t heard of her before. She was a remarkable woman and deserves to be recognized as the pioneering filmmaker she was. I hope more people will learn about her from this documentary.

Her biography on Wikipedia is inadequate, but it does give you some information, as well as a list of her films.

Here’s a clip from the year before her death in 2010, as part of her work with the Sundance Institute.

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The Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen poster with a review at Old Ain't Dead

Watch the Trailer

Have you seen any films by Merata Mita? What did you think of this documentary?

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