To mark the 40th anniversary of the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Screen brings us the stories behind some of our most notable local films.

Adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel, Once Were Warriors painted a very different picture of New Zealand to the one cinemagoers had previously become familiar with.

Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence drew audiences around the world, providing career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke.

Twenty-four years on, it remains one of New Zealand's top 10 most watched local films.

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Here Rena Owen reveals why it was her privilege, but not necessarily her pleasure, to play Beth.

You can watch the US trailer for Once Were Warriors here: