Peter Calder examines the local docos delving deep into Maori stories.

Wellington film-maker David Stubbs tried and failed to get the permission of the family at the centre of the infamous "Wainuiomata exorcism" case before embarking on a documentary about it.

"I tried my best, but they didn't want me involved," he says. "They never gave media anything. It was a challenge, but I knew that if I was respectful of the family and strove for the truth, no one could argue with that."

Stubbs relied on the public record, interviews with others - in particular prosecution and defence counsel - and re-enactment by a nimble and assured cast to dig behind the sensational headlines of the trial coverage.

The resulting film, Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses, is a compelling and heartbreaking portrait of what the film-maker calls "fear and love mixing and turning into hysteria".

Advertisement

Stubbs, co-director of Emmy Award-winning online drama Reservoir Hill, tells the story (working title Too Much Love) in so perfectly calibrated a manner that it rebukes all the simplistic pieties and finds the beating heart of a human tragedy.

Kim Webby's The Price of Peace is a powerfully affecting re-examination of the Ruatoki raids that achieves something rather special: maintaining a personal, even intimate, focus on its central figure Tame Iti, it locates the 2007 police raids in the wider context of Tuhoe history and the process of reconciliation.

Webby, a former television reporter now living and working as a naturopath in her birthplace of Opotiki, has a strong connection to Tuhoe: her mother was the public health nurse in Ruatoki for two generations and Webby, who calls herself "an outsider on the inside", has known the Iti family for 20 years.

"I always thought [the raids] would finish with a police apology and so I just kept going," she said this week. "It took seven years, which was somewhat longer than I had anticipated."

In one of the film's most moving scenes, Webby and her cameraman were present when Police Commissioner Mike Bush came to Iti's home last year to apologise for police actions.

She says she hopes that the film will illuminate a side of the story that has not been told. "[Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones' 2011 film] Operation 8, which I really liked, was a very political film, but this is a very personal one.

"I wanted people who don't know Tame to know him and for people to understand something of Tuhoe history. People who have an entrenched view about Tame may not go but I really hope that people have a think and maybe learn something new. It may change some perspectives."

Sarah Grohnert's unassuming and watchful observational doco, Ever The Land, makes an excellent companion piece. Ostensibly a film about a building project - and it is compelling enough on that ground alone - it delivers much more ... a portrait of the Children of the Mist. Taken together, these two films offer a rare and fascinating glimpse into the world of Tuhoe, the people and the land.

What: The Price of Peace (Screening Sunday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 22); Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses (Screening Tuesday, July 28 and Wednesday, July 29); Ever The Land (Screening Saturday, July 19 and Tuesday, July 21).

- TimeOut