This Anzac Day Maori Television will be showcasing the New Zealand premiere of Julian Arahanga's documentary Beyond the Battalion.

Hundreds of men from Rotorua fought in the 28th Maori Battalion B Company, and the documentary comes as efforts are being made to track down photographs of those who fought.

The documentary retraces the footsteps of Michael Havas, a forgotten Kiwi filmmaker.

"I met Michael while working in Prague, he was born there, but his parents had migrated to New Zealand after the war," said Mr Arahanga.

Advertisement

"In 1972 there weren't very many places to study film in New Zealand so he went back to film school in Prague."

Mr Havas didn't learn about the 28th Maori Battalion while growing up in New Zealand, but actually while on holiday in Crete.

"He went on a bit of a romantic holiday, and they visited a tavern. All of the locals stopped and stared at them as they walked in," said Mr Arahanga.

"So the bar tender asked where he was from, and as soon as they heard it was New Zealand there was great celebration."

Feeling a sense of guilt dining out on the backs of dead soldiers and that it had taken people from the other side of the world to tell him New Zealand history, he wanted to learn more.

"He made a student film first, called Once upon an Island, and during the filming he actually came back to New Zealand to talk to New Zealand soldiers," Mr Arahanga said.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
4 Apr, 2017 8:00am
3 minutes to read

"That's how he met Ned Nathan, an officer in the Maori battalion."

In 1976 Mr Havas was invited to document a 28th Maori Battalion pilgrimage to Crete and the other grounds and cemeteries of those who hadn't returned.

"They booked out an ocean liner from the port in Athens," Mr Arahanga said.

"They turned it into a floating marae really, there were 300-400 of them."

It was 38 years later when Mr Arahanga met with Mr Havas in Prague, and was introduced to his documentaries.

"I went to watch the films and I just thought 'wow, there's some really interesting stuff here,' but it was all so outdated and experimental," he said.

"We talked about it and thought, maybe there's some way to re imagine this, and that's what we've done. We've told Michael's story."

Mr Arahanga is quick to add that the film is not a historical A-Z account of the battalion.

"I don't think that can be done in one hour," he said.

"It would take a lot more time than that to give it the authenticity and the recognition the soldiers deserve."

The documentary, which was commissioned for Anzac Day will air on Maori Television straight after the Dawn Service.

WHAT: Beyond the Battalion, feature documentary
Traces the footsteps of forgotten Kiwi filmmaker Michael Havas who through encountering the 28 Maori Battalion would go on to document the 1977 pilgrimage to the battle fields of World War II.
WHERE: Maori Television
WHEN: 6.45am Anzac Day, Tuesday April 25

Photos wanted
Attempts are being made to track down the photographs of a remaining 400 soldiers from the 28th Maori Battalion.
If you want send a photo, scan it and email to: info@28maoribattalion.org.nz. It should have a minimum 300 dpi, and preferably be a tif file.
Rotorua Museum is also willing to help out, so give them a call on (07) 350 1814 if you need help scanning a photograph.