Lee Tamahori’s 1994 Once Were Warriors was, and still is an international hit. When we think of productions coming out of New Zealand, it’s almost always the topic of conversation. And while it’s an outstanding piece, and an accomplishment for New Zealand, in many respects, garnering international attention, winning the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Foreign Film, and bringing the raw, honest, reality of a large percent of the Maori population to the international forefront – it was, equally, just as much of an embarrassment for Maori people and their culture. “The topic of immigration has implications for states and individuals. How we define ourselves is a matter of identity politics. Our identity is shaped by our birth, our family, and our experiences. Immigration leads to interesting philosophic questions: Are our identities changeable? What is the effect around the world of identity politics? (Sachleben, M., 2014, pp. 138)” This is particularly important, when we discuss Once Were Warriors (1994), as while it tells the story of the average Maori’s struggle, we neglect these questions when analysing it, isolating the the problem as the Maori’s – when in reality the issue is much more than that. These questions within identity politics leading into long conversations of colonialism, with a majority of these issues that affect the Maori stemming from introductions from the Pakeha (white settler) (e.g. Alcohol and alcoholism) that the Maori simply hadn’t faced until colonialism occurred. This showing that “the development of New Zealand cinema (Joyce, H., 2009, pp. 239)”  is “reflective of the disintegration of the utopian dream inherent in the founding settler era… and… their representations of Maori culture are illustrative of Pakeha (white settler) anxieties about Maori/Pakeha relations (Joyce, H., 2009, pp. 239).” 



  • Once Were Warriors, 1994. [DVD] Lee Tamahori, Auckland, New Zealand: Tandem Press.
  • Sachleben, M., 2014. World politics on screen: Understanding international relations through popular culture. University Press of Kentucky.
  • Joyce, H., 2009. Out from nowhere: Pakeha anxieties in Ngati (Barclay, 1987), Once Were Warriors (Tamahori, 1994) and Whale Rider (Caro, 2002). Studies in Australasian Cinema3(3), pp.239-250.

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