May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Utu Redux: The return of powerful local storytelling (Review)

3 min read

A powerful unifying Haka rings out from the throats of hundreds of Maori warriors, all gathered to remember the battle of Rangiriri today.

It was a fierce encounter between our tupuna and the armies of empire and was a formative step in the establishment of a new country, New Zealand. This was the time of Utu, and the film is back to remind us of our own history.

Utu Redux is different this time around because the times are different.

In the millieu of the 1960s urbanisation and 1970s modernisation, Maori communities increasingly formed around towns and cities, depriving marae and hapu of young talent, and in some instances, dimming the light of learning that had been passed down through many generations. It was here that the stories of Te Kooti came back into the collective consciousness of a modern New Zealand. Many people had forgotten our koroua Te Kooti, choosing to hide him away like the SlenderMan of New Zealand history. The figure Te Wheke looks and feels like Te Kooti.

But he isnt.

Te Wheke has his own complexities. Te Wheke is the lone warrior bereft from the protective embrace of his whanau, his hapu.

When he returns home, he looks tired and this is enhanced by the amazing colour work seen in Utu Redux. It must be simply amazing to see on the big screen, as the forest somehow comes alive with colour and korero, much like that film Avatar but with wairua and not 3D glasses.

And then he sees the destruction. And the branch breaks. No more peace.

As a young fulla growing up here in the Bay of Plenty, the marae are still fresh with the life and times of Te Kooti and Rua Kenana, so to see this 1983 classic back again is to sit with old friends once more, remembering the things that made us laugh (the Pakeha for one minute line is timeless), the things that made us cry (the final sequence) and to witness the driving zeal of Bruno Lawrence, well- it shows that sometimes love is indeed more powerful than utu.

We smiled to see our friend Merata Mita on screen. She looked so fierce yet was anything but. She had told us that Utu was coming back and that because of that one film in particular, more young Maori are coming through, telling uniquely Maori stories. There was a long history of Maori filmmakers, wahine story tellers, tane chroniclers. And there she is, back to once again inspire and guide a new generation who have not yet seen the film.

[quote cite=”Potaua Biasiny-Tule | Founder,”]Utu Redux is for anyone who does not know the history of New Zealand. Our country has had a turbulent birth, and this movie attempts to capture some of that tension.[/quote]Utu Redux is for anyone who does not know the history of New Zealand. Our country has had a turbulent birth, and this movie attempts to capture some of that tension.

At the same time, it opens new whakaaro about what is to come – like perhaps the famous battles of Orakau, Rangiriri, Gate Pa, or the story of Von Tempksy, Te Whiti and Te Kooti himself.

Much love too all who contributed to the making of the original, to the taonga we have in Geoff Murphy, Anzac Wallace, Tom Poata, Bruno LAwrence, Wii Kuki Kaa, Kelly Johnston and Tim Elliot. Also aroha nui to the team for reprising an opportunity story in the history of our country and more, to New Zealand film. It’s one of the few local movies that captured our heart back in the 80’s, when everything was too American for a small town kid like me.

We must tell our stories and keep those names alive. For that is but one way to ensure that utu is still current and that our debt to the past is always being repaid, and respected.

5 Kete out of 5 Kete >:-p


  • Starting on Nov 21:
  • Kerikeri Cathay
  • Kaitaia Cathay

Auckland: Rialto Newmarket; Hoyts – Hibiscus Coast, Mission Bay, Takapuna, Sylvia Park. Event – Queen St, Westgate

  • Hamilton: Hoyts Metro.
  • Tauranga: BayCity 8.
  • Hastings Focal Point cinema.
  • Gisborne Odeon.
  • Palmerston North Gold.
  • Paraparaumu: Coastlands Gold.
  • Lower Hutt: Event Queensgate.
  • Wellington: Event Embassy, Penthouse
  • Christchurch: Hoyts Northlands.
  • Dunedin: Rialto

Starting on Nov 28:

  • Whangarei Event
  • Auckland Event WestCity, St Lukes, Albany, Manukau

2 thoughts on “Utu Redux: The return of powerful local storytelling (Review)

  1. Vale Bruno. Martin, Merita, Wii (others?) Thanks Geoff and Graeme for bringing them back.

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