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Products for grant FT-270920-20

Cinema of Indigenous Maori Filmmaker and Actress Merata Mita (1942-2010)
Leah Vonderheide, Oberlin College

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Before Māori Television: The internal border-crossing of Merata Mita’s made-for-TV documentaries (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Before Māori Television: The internal border-crossing of Merata Mita’s made-for-TV documentaries
Author: Leah Vonderheide
Abstract: After collaborating on several short films in the 1970s, Merata Mita gained international recognition for her feature films including “Patu!” and “Mauri.” By the nineties, however, Mita returned to the genre of short-format documentaries that marked her early career, including “The Shooting of Dominick Kaiwhata” (1993), which examines the fatal shooting of a young Black Power member and the resulting miscarriage of justice that followed, as well as “Dread” (1996), which explores a small community of Māori Rastafarians on the North Island. Furthermore, Mita created these short documentaries for broadcast television, which has led to their exclusion from the canon of global Indigenous cinema – deemed the “fourth cinema” by Māori filmmaker Barry Barclay, and a body of work “outside the national orthodoxy” that Mita herself helped to establish. Yet Mita’s embrace of television as a platform to broadcast her politically engaged works in the nineties provided the necessary context for the establishment of Māori Television in 2004 – now a key site for the health and well-being of Māori language and culture in the face of the devastating effects of colonial settlement. By reconsidering fourth cinema as a mode of exhibition as much as it is a category of production, Mita’s willingness to produce significant works for her community via television – instead of for exclusive exhibition at art house theaters – reveals one of Mita’s key contributions to Indigenous film and media. That is, not only did she make the national airwaves more hospitable to Indigenous voices, she also demonstrated to Indigenous media-makers worldwide that working “outside the national orthodoxy” is not necessarily exploiting the globally circulating product of film, but perhaps embracing a locally based medium to cross (and redefine) the internal borders of the contemporary settler nation.
Date: 07/17/2021
Conference Name: MLA International Symposium: Being Hospitable: Languages and Cultures Across Borders (acceptance pending)