Czech-Maori connection captured in film

By shauni.james@dailypost.co.nz

1 comment
TWO CULTURES: Documentary maker Ivanna Benesova (left) and Frank Grapl (right) during filming. PHOTOS/STEPHEN PARKER
TWO CULTURES: Documentary maker Ivanna Benesova (left) and Frank Grapl (right) during filming. PHOTOS/STEPHEN PARKER

A film crew has visited Rotorua to shoot an episode on a half Maori, half Czech local who has just returned from leading a Rotorua kapa haka group through central Europe.

Yesterday crew from Orange TV, based in Sydney, went to the home of Frank Grapl Jnr to film a short documentary on his life and kapa haka group Whakaari Rotorua's contribution to Czech, New Zealand and Maori culture. The series is to be show worldwide.

Mr Grapl said the crew was looking to discover the connection his group had had with Czech people for many years.

Mr Grapl, whose mother is Maori, said the documentary would give great publicity for Rotorua and other areas of New Zealand.

"I am the only Czech Maori that will be interviewed as a subject and this part of their documentary series will be the only part filmed in Rotorua of their New Zealand journey."

Documentary director Ivanna Benesova, who is Czech, said the series looked at Czech and Slovakian people who had been in New Zealand for a long time and who had interesting life stories.

There would be 22 episodes in total, she said.

The name of the series would be Kiwi Dream (Novozelandsky Sen), she said.

Mr Grapl returned from a three-month tour in Central Europe with Whakaari Rotorua in November last year.

The majority of the tour was in the Czech Republic, but also took in Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Germany.

There were only four of them in the performance group, but they "packed the punch of 10 people", he said. "The best part about it is showing people something they've never seen before."

He said the biggest event was the closing performance for The New Zealand Lindauer Painting/portrait exhibition of New Zealand's most notable Maori, painted from the 1800s and early 1900s.

It was the first time the collection had been taken to another country for an international exhibition, and was highly publicised all over Europe and the world, he said. They also performed at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp for its mid-year 70th anniversary, in front of 100,000 people, Mr Grapl said.

Whakaari Rotorua will also be receiving a special award of peace from the president of The European Union of Arts, Mr Grapl said.

"He had never seen our culture before and really took to us."

He said they liked the way his group touched people with their music and made them cry, how they talked and sang with the children, and had genuine audience participation in their performance at Auschwitz. The award is likely to be presented in October in New Zealand. The group is set to go on another, more extended, tour in July 2017.

Mr Grapl often hosts Czech people at his home, generally those who are travelling and will stop in for two to three nights.

He said when the group went to the Czech Republic they felt like part of the land and they wanted to try and make Czech people feel that way too, to return some of the hospitality they gave. "We are lucky to meet selfless people. We feel the Maori culture is that way."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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