Te Arawa leaders say viewers shouldn't be offended by cannibalism featured in Temuera Morrison's latest movie.
Historian and AUT professor Paul Moon has said that he expected the theme of cannibalism to attract controversy but Te Arawa leaders say viewers should remember the content isn't real.
The film industry website IMDb says Fresh Meat is about a dysfunctional gang of criminals who take a middle-class Maori family hostage and belatedly discover they are cannibals. The movie's tagline describes it as "a tasty movie" and a publicity poster shows a human hand garnished with lemon and herbs.
"It was a comparatively recent practice, so there may be a bit of rawness about that," Mr Moon has said of the cannibalism, predicting that a few "so-called academics" among Maori would object.
Mr Moon's book on Maori cannibalism, called This Horrid Practice and published in 2008, prompted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
Educationalist and Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Toby Curtis said he wasn't offended about a movie on Maori cannibalism.
"It's probably going to upset some people but I think it's just ... stupid. The problem is that people treat it as real."
Te Arawa spokesman Mauriora Kingi said he wouldn't be upset by it, but other people could be.
"It's something that happened once upon a time and it was a ritualistic practice where our tipuna would try and obtain the mana or wairua of a certain person," Mr Kingi said.
The movie was made by Gibson Group and chief executive Victoria Spackman said it would appeal to those who liked comedy horrors.
"The problem is there are those self-appointed arbiters of what the public should and shouldn't see or read. They are the ones who'll be upset at this portrayal. We're aiming for young men and we're pretty sure we've hit that nail," Professor Moon said.