A confrontational film which delves into the harsh realities of suicide will make its way to Hawke's Bay as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Directed by psychologist Paora Joseph, Maui's Hook has a strong Maori focus, depicting a traditional pilgrimage of mourners to the tip of Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) to perform sacred farewell ceremonies for the dead.

It shares the testimony of five families who have been bereaved by the loss of loved ones from the social epidemic while also weaving the narrative of a fictionalised character, Tama (Niwa Whatuira), who moves through the action, unacknowledged by others.

The director's role as a youth worker in the 1980s spurred him to create the film.

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And while it may be a tough subject matter, it is, a "conversation starter". "It is a film that speaks honestly from the heart and has the potential to bring us into our humanity."

"I feel that suicide has been a little bit of a dark spot that we as a country have been unwilling to embrace."

Annually in New Zealand about 600 people kill themselves. It's thought to be the leading cause of death between those aged 15 to 24. Men and Māori are over-represented.

Producer Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka-Tibble said Kura Productions' ultimate aim in making the film is to encourage communities to care about one another.

"When Paora brought the film to us, Quinton and I had lost a mutual friend to suicide.

"Suicide has touched or affected every person who helped make this film directly or indirectly.

"The goal is to reduce the number of people taking their life. If this film in some way helps one person change their thinking away from taking their life - then it has been worth it.

"We were so fortunate that the whānau in the film (and many more who attended the wananga in their marae), were generous in sharing their grief, and ultimately sharing their commitment to finding help for themselves and others."

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Office of film and literature classification chief censor David Shanks said the film is classified as RP13.

Shanks said they consulted with experts from Māori and Pasifika communities who had also viewed the film.

The film "contextualises suicide in such a way that makes it unlikely to shock or disturb a teenage and adult audience, or to increase the risk of them harming or killing themselves.

"However, we also noted that younger children were at risk of reading mixed messages about suicide and its impacts into the film, and might be negatively impacted if they did not have proper guidance and support from an adult.

"We found it refreshing to see a local production that did not fall into the dramatic and potentially very harmful excesses we have seen in some international productions dealing with this topic."

Hastings man and Te Taitimu Trust founder Zack Makoare has seen the film and believes that although it is a "challenging" watch, it tackles the issue.

"I felt the movie a reality of what really happens in those different scenarios. It is positive in the way that it challenges what we are doing now and what we are not doing around the suicide space."

Maui's Hook will screen at Event Cinema, Havelock North at 6pm on September 1 and MTG Century Theatre at 6.30pm on September 2.

Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111. Or, if you need to talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention