Director Lee Tamahori's first New Zealand film since Once Were Warriors will have its debut at the Berlin Film Festival next month.

Mahana, an adaptation of the Witi Ihimaera novel, Bulibasha, has been selected to screen out of competition at the prestigious festival.

It will be the world premiere for the film which opens in New Zealand on March 3.

The film stars Warriors lead Temuera Morrison as Tamihana Mahana, the proud, traditionalist patriarch of a 1960s East Coast shearing family who battles with rival clan the Poatas.


Robin Scholes, who produced Warriors, is the producer of Mahana which was backed by the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air, Māori Television, Entertainment One, Wild Bunch and crowd-funding.

Other films screening out of compeition at Cannes include the latest by the Coen Brothers, Hail Caesar!, and Spike Lee's Chi-Raq.

Mahana, which is being bracketed with translated title "The Patriarch" in the Berlin announcemment, is Tamahori's first homegrown film in 20 years since Warriors propelled his career to Hollywood.

He says: "I wanted to do a film about the East Coast from this era and Witi is the person who has been telling these stories. I had always wanted to film one of his stories, so when Robin Scholes came along with the rights, it was a perfect fit. I wanted it to be a loving postcard to a period that I know very well."

Mahana is the latest screen version of Ihimaera's writing. Previous adaptations have included Whale Rider, The Matriarch (as White Lies), and Nights in the Gardens of Spain.

Previous New Zealand films to have screened at Berlin include Boy, No. 2, Two Little Boys, Shopping, The Weight of Elephants, and What We do in the Shadows.