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Film director slams culture suppression

The Maori culture, like many other indigenous cultures around the world, have been suppressed and branded “wrong” by foreigners.

This is according to Paula Whetu Jones, a Maori woman who has been in the filmmaking industry in New Zealand for 20 years, documenting real life events that affect people, especially the Maori and Pacific Islanders in N.Z. 

“I worked on a genealogy programme, a Maori programme where people who do not know where they come from can trace their family roots,” the 49-year-old said. 

“I’m trying to tell stories from a completely different perspective. Tell our stories from our perspective, and no one can tell you that’s wrong.”

“We (Maori) do things differently, and it’s seen as wrong in New Zealand. Back in the days everything that identifies with us were taken and we were expected to assimilate, and if you don’t it’s seen as a negative thing, and the Maoris are usually seen like that. When you grow up like that, it’s sort of hard to break through.”

Paula said the media has a lot to play in the reporting of what Maori and Pacific Islanders do. 

“The palagis are sort of scared that even if they let a little bit in, then we are going to take over. The dominant culture they are scared to let another culture come in for fear of losing themselves,” she said. 

“The Maori language is not compulsory in schools, and the argument is Maori is not useful outside of New Zealand, but we are not outside New Zealand. People go on about us being one people, but who, which one people are we going to be.” 

“We are two people and you should just let us be. It’s not about giving us anything, and we’re realised that we are the best people to look after our own.”

Paula said she hopes that the films and documentaries she has done would change how people see the situations of Maori and what colonization has done to their culture. 

Because of a neurological disorder, Paula was paralysed eight years ago, and despite feeling invisible because of her situation, her passion for what she does is what still drives her to this day. 

“I went to film school when I was 26 years old, and I had two children at that stage, and I was a single parent. It was documentaries I started to make and I have never looked back. I later started to write films.”

“I wanted to film documentaries because when I was in film school I trained as an editor, but then I watched a documentary about a little girl who was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend, and a woman was making the documentary about the little girl and her death, but was focusing on the mother, and all of a sudden the little girl ceased to exist and it was all about the mother.” 

“I was really quite upset because this baby was two years old and the mother knew what was going on but did not do anything, and of course just tried to save herself. I felt that the baby died by herself and she’s been taken off her grandmother who was looking after, and ended up being beaten to death by the mother’s boyfriend. And I thought it wasn’t the right story,” Paula said. 

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