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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Moriarty plays winning role in film

Christchurch film-maker Stefen Lewis has won the top prize at the Australian digital film awards for his feature The Waimate Conspiracy.

The 100 minute film is based on his novel the Waikikamukau Conspiracy, and is a mock documentary about a fictional Maori land claim in the South Island.

Mr Lewis says much of the success of the film comes down to the cast, led by veteran actor Jim Moriarty.

He says it took a year to convince the veteran Maori actor it was possible to make a feature film with no budget.

“I went to all of his plays, and every time he’d do a play I’d turn up at the end and remind him of the project, and after about 12 months I went and shot a promotional reel, a 10 minute version of it, and showed it to Jim, and finally he relented and came on board,” Lewis says.

Stefen Lewis says the $15 thousand prize money will cover the production costs, and the win also means the Waimate Conspiracy will be shown in Australia on Fox television.

CARE IN SUN URGED DESPITE NATURAL TAN

Maori are being warned they need to need to take care in the sun, the same as any other ethnic group.

Adrian Knowles, the Cancer Society's health promotion manager, says New Zealanders spend a lot of time outside in the summer.

The cooler climate and higher levels of ultra violet rays than other parts of the world contributes to this country leading the world in skin cancers.

“There does seem to be an idea among Maori and Pacific that having brown skin is going to protect people from skin cancer. It’s certainly true to says the darker your skin the less risk you have, but it doesn’t mean there is no risk, and that’s a message we need to put some work into getting out into Maori communities,” Knowles says.

Adrian Knowles says from now to March prime burn time is from 11am to 4pm.

MAORI INSTRUMENTS DAZZLE WORLD AUDIENCE

Maori taonga puoro expert Richard Nunns says many New Zealanders overlook how unique Maori instruments are in the musical world.

He's just returned from a 17 day trip to North America, where he presented pieces written by renowned Maori composer Gillian Karawae Whitehead, and Aroha Yates Smith, from Waikato University.

Mr Nunns says a highlight was a performance at Cal Arts in Los Angeles, where students are used to experimenting with different musical genres.

He says they were left bewildered by the sounds of the traditional instruments.

“Young ones go there because they want to try something different, and here’s this whole world of sound that most of them have never heard before, extraordinary emotive visceral such sounds can be made using a musical system that only spans four tones. Completely overwhelmed and bedazzled really,” Nunns says.

TRUANCY STILL SCHOOLING HEADACHE

Despite improvements for Maori in various parts of the education system, too many young Maori males continue to be a headache for teachers and schools.

The Education Ministry yesterday presented its annual stocktake of Maori educational achievement to parliament's education select committee.

Acting group manager Maori Paula Rawiri says participation rates in the early childhood sector continue to hold up, although there is room for improvement, and fewer Maori are leaving the school system without a qualification.

But Ms Rawiri says there are still challenges around truancy, suspensions and participation rates by Maori.

“Maori young people are over-represented in this group of students,. There continues to be fewer Maori staying at school and particularly with our young Maori men there continues to be a challenge there about how we support them to continue to be at school in a meaningful way,” Rawiri says.

Paula Rawiri says the rates of Maori participating in tertiary study is encouraging, but most of them are doing certificate or diploma courses rather than degrees.

COMEDIAN ENLISTED FOR HEALTHY HEART PUSH

Maori health workers are helping the power of celebrity can help some Maori men wake up to the risks of heart disease.

They're roped in comedian Pio Terei to host a hui tonight at Te Piringatahi o Te Maungarongo Marae in West Auckland looking at cardiovascular risks for middle-aged men are hoping to pull an audience using the power of celebrity.

Waitemata District Health Board Maori health project manager Gary Thompson says Mr Terei is in the target group for the One Heart, Many Lives campaign, and he lives in the area.

“It's really about ... how we get that message to our whanau, so with someone like Pio Terei, he’s an awesome entertainer and one our whanau will take time out to come and see. It just gives us the opportunity to bring people together and talk about what cardiovascular risk is,” Thompson says.

MOCKO DOCKO TOP IN OZ

A mock documentary about a fictional Maori claim in the South Island has been judged the best feature film in the Australian Digital Film Awards.

The Waimate Conspiracy starts Jim Moriarty, his wife Helen Pearse-Otene, and other seasoned actors including David McPhail and Mark Hadlow.

It wins first time director Stefen Lewis $15 thousand - enough to cover the production costs - a run on Fox television in Australia and a ticket to the Rotterdam Digital Film Festival, where he will be able to pitch for funding for his next project.

Mr Lewis says the film is based on his novel The Waikikamukau Conspiracy, which was published by Hazard Press in 1999.

“We had some film interest in it and there were directors and a producers keen to make it, and it was always going to cost $1 million to film. When we couldn’t organise that I though why don’t we see if we can do it ourselves on a very low budget and see what happens,” Lewis says.

Stefen Lewis says The Waimate Conspiracy will open in a theatre in Christchurch next week.

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