Māori Film Festival confirmed for Arrowtown's Matariki celebration
Turn the mobile phone to silent and grab some popcorn, a film festival showcasing Māori films is coming to Arrowtown.
The festival is part of the Matariki Arrowtown Lights programme, set to take over the town from June 24 to 26, as the country celebrates the traditional Māori New Year with a national public holiday for the first time.
The film festival will be hosted by local movie theatre Dorothy Browns, and it will include films ranging from new release Whina, which is about trailblazing Māori leader Dame Whina Cooper, to older favourites like Whale Rider.
As well as the films, light displays and projections on Buckingham Street, performances by kapa haka groups from local schools and preschools, live music, a craft and produce market, and presentations by an astrophysicist on the Otago night skies are all included in the inaugural three-day cultutral festival.
Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association manager Nicky Busst says Matariki is an event local people have increasingly celebrated, but having it become a national public holiday this year has elevated it.
"And we’re all learning so much more about its cultural significance as a result."
Local Arrowtown businesses are embracing the planned celebrations, and that's a good thing after tough times at the hands of the pandemic.
"Everyone’s just so excited to have something like this to look forward to," Ms Busst says.
Lucy Hunt of the Remarkables Sweet Shop is one of them: “With winter coming on and people coming into the country, I think it will be time for a bit of a celebration.”
Luke Baldock, of the South Island Light Orchestra (SILO), who'll be responsible for creatively lighting up Arrowtown's historical main drag for the event, says the location's a new one for his team.
“Arrowtown’s nightscape is completely new to us. We were really attracted by the opportunity to use our creativity as a vehicle to share some of the themes and values of Matariki and help create a better understanding of why we have this holiday.”
Away from the lights, one of the world’s pre-eminent astrophysicists, Professor Brian Boyle, will act as a guide to the stars, including the Pleiades cluster or Matariki stars.
The new event builds on celebrations held for several years by the Arrowtown Preschool. Its annual Matariki fundraiser proved so popular it quickly outgrew its venue, opening up to the public five years ago.
Organisers say the event will enable local people to come together and celebrate as well as attract visitors to the town.
The event is a collaboration between the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association and the Arrowtown Charitable Trust, with funding from the Central Lakes Trust, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Community Trust South, the New Zealand Community Trust, the Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group (Connecting Communities Fund) and the Regional Events Fund, which includes The Southern Lakes Events Investment Panel, Destination Queenstown, Lake Wanaka Tourism and Tourism Central Otago.
The programme’s out, the posters are going up and Arrowtown is counting down – four weeks to go. For more information about Mataraki Arrowtown Lights visit its website here.
Matariki is an abbreviation of ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea’ (‘The Eyes of the God Tāwhirimātea’) and refers to a large cluster of stars, also known as the Pleiades. The rising of Matariki in the mid-winter sky marks the changing of the seasons and the beginning of the Māori New Year.
Traditionally, for our Māori tūpuna (ancestors), when Matariki appeared in June/July, clear and bright stars promised a warm and abundant winter, while hazy stars warned of a bleak winter.
Matariki is a time to honour those who’ve passed since the last rising of Matariki; to celebrate the present and give thanks for what we have, and to look forward to the future.
Matariki is a new public holiday in New Zealand and the first to recognise Te Ao Māori.
Main image: APBA manager Nicky Busst and Remarkables Sweet Shop managing director Lucy Hunt with a Matariki Arrowtown Lights poster.