Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen.’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen.’

There are arguably two inevitable truths one eventually learns about their parents. One, is that their parents are human, and are therefore fallible. The other, is that parents make tremendous sacrifices to provide their children with the best possible opportunities to succeed. Heperi Mita’s debut feature Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen, is the story of a man truly exploring the extent of the latter revelation.

As we discover in Merata, Heperi’s mother Merata Mita was a well-renowned Maori documentarian. Heperi’s investigation into his mother’s career and archive, lead him to discuss her life with his siblings, all of whom are older than he is. In a sense, this film could be seen as a reintroduction to one of the pioneering voices in Indigenous and New Zealand cinema. Many audiences likely have never heard of Merata Mita, but they probably know a number of the voices she worked with. A large section of this film features prominent filmmakers such as Alanis Obomsawin and Taika Waititi discussing the effect on their careers Merata had. Yet, the crux of this film remains the clearly recognizable love a family has for their mother, and her for her family. An overview of Merata’s career provides the emotional foundation we need to recognize her impact. The two halves arguably work in conjunction with each other. We see the sacrifice, and also see the eventual results. In doing so, we understand just how special Merata Mita really was.

Of particular note is the vast nature of collected archives in Merata. Film buffs will delight in mentally adding innumerable titles to their watchlist. This is a warm documentary that is very much a pleasant watch for a sleepy Sunday afternoon, or for a safe viewing with family and friends.

  • Release Date: 4/26/2019
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Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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