EXCLUSIVE: Cornerstone is heading to the virtual EFM with New Zealand drama Whina, which stars Siren, Once Were Warriors and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones actress Rena Owen as revered Maori activist and female rights advocate Whina Cooper.
See an exclusive first look image of Owen as Cooper above.
Cornerstone will launch worldwide sales, excluding Australia/NZ, on the film which heralds from writer-directors James Napier Robertson, who directed 2014 festival favorite The Dark Horse, and Paula Whetu Jones (Waru).
Whina (pronounced fee-nah), will see Owen play the role of Cooper, the beloved Māori matriarch who worked tirelessly to improve the rights of her people, especially women. At nearly 80-years-old Cooper became nationally revered as the ‘Mother of The Nation’ when she led the first Māori Land March over 1,000 kilometers from Te Hapua in the Far North to Wellington at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand in 1975.
The period drama tackles issues such as traditional gender and cultural roles in NZ society, racism, land rights activism, female empowerment and justice and equality. Through the eyes of Older Whina the film looks back on the formative years of the icon of New Zealand’s political history as she broke gender boundaries and fought for the recognition of her own culture, all the while staying true to her heart and her beliefs.
Robertson and Whetu Jones co-wrote the script with James Lucas, whose short The Phone Call won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2015.
Produced by Matthew Metcalfe (McLaren) and Tainui Stephens (The Dead Lands), the film also stars Miriama McDowell (The Dark Horse), as the younger Whina, Vinnie Bennett (Fast & Furious 9), James Rolleston (The Breaker Upperers) and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne (Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
Funded by Ingenious Media and the New Zealand Film Commission, Whina, which is currently in post-production, was shot entirely on location in New Zealand, with a majority Māori cast and crew, and will be released in Australia and New Zealand by Transmission Films. Cornerstone will be screening first footage to buyers at the EFM.
Cornerstone’s Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder noted: “New Zealand is a country with a history of strong female leaders and the life of Dame Whina Cooper is one of its great legacies. Her message of unity over division is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when you have the right woman in charge. We couldn’t be more proud to bring her story to international audiences.”
Cornerstone’s virtual AFM included Emma Thompson project Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, and Helena Bonham Carter-Pierce Brosnan rom-com Not Bloody Likely.