The pick-up by the film collective comes on the very same day that the Robert Redford founded fest announced the latest recipients of the annual Merata Mita Fellowship named in honor of the late Māori filmmaker.
The 21st feature film acquisition by the nine-year old ARRAY, MERATA: How Mum Decolonised the Screen spotlights the barrier smashing life and work of Mita as long time Sundance Institute advisor and activist became the first Indigenous woman in the world to direct a film on her own. An official SFF selection in the Documentary Premieres category, the never-seen-before-footage rich MERATA debuted today in Park City and will have three more screenings this Sundance.
Gordon Bobb of the Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano law firm helped put the deal together for ARRAY with MERATA producer Chelsea Winstanley for the filmmakers. The 95-minute documentary is executive produced by fellow New Zealander and ex-Fear The Walking Dead star Cliff Curtis and directed by Heperi Mita, the youngest son of the subject.
“Through his film, director Heperi Mita introduces a new generation to an artist and cultural leader that everyone should know,” ARRAY Releasing VP Tilane Jones told Deadline today. “We at ARRAY are honored to distribute this beautiful film about the legacy, dignity and talent of the great filmmaker, mother and icon, Merata Mita.”
For producer Winstanley, the house that Ava built is the perfect home for the film. “There are so many similarities between ARRAY’s philosophy and Merata’s legacy,” she said Monday. “To have a company led by a woman of color, fearless in her pursuit of inclusivity, is an honor and in the spirit of Merata’s life’s work.”
There is no word yet how and when ARRAY will release MERATA.
However, as stated before, we did learn today that directors Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith are the 2019 recipients of the Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellowship.
“Now in its fourth consecutive award year, this special Fellowship pays tribute to the immense artistic contributions and memory of our beloved colleague and friend Merata Mita, who was an activist, documentarian and the first and only Māori woman to write and direct a dramatic feature,” said N. Bird Runningwater announcing this year’s Fellowship award Monday. “The Merata Mita Fellowship reflects Sundance Institute’s ongoing commitment to supporting Indigenous artists around the world,” the director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program added. The selection of Ainsley and Briar as the 2019 recipients exemplifies the creative work and the efforts that Merata championed throughout her life.”
Mita was the director of, Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program from 2000 to 2009, the year before she passed away.
The Fellowship will provide a cash grant to Gardiner and Grace-Smith as well as mentorship and other support from Sundance.
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival itself runs until February 3.