A prestigious international indigenous film festival is returning to Ōtaki for the sixth year running, with its hotly anticipated line-up programme to be revealed shortly.

The Māoriland Film Festival has been growing year on year, with the 2018 event drawing around 12,000 visitors and more than 60 international filmmakers.

The programme for this year's festival will be released on Waitangi Day (February 6) with the event running from March 20 to 24.

Premiere screenings of both New Zealand and international films will feature in a schedule of over 100 events, organisers say.

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Coordinator Madeleine de Young said there would be a strong Pacific voice, with films from Haida (British Columbia, Canada), Hawai'i, Papua New Guinea, Rapanui, Guam and Vanuatu in addition to a number of films from the USA, Canada, Northern Europe, Iran and more.

"We have seen a 30 per cent growth in submissions for 2019 and at the same time indigenous cinema is gaining more recognition and winning awards at some of the world's largest film festivals," she said.

"In our corner of the world, Māoriland Film Festival can lay claim to being the largest indigenous film festival in the Southern hemisphere."

Previously, indigenous films shown at the festival have included New Zealand box office hits Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Boy, Once Were Warriors, Sione's Wedding and Dark Horse.

Ms de Young said gender equality was also important to the festival, and approximately half of the programmed directors are female.

Many filmmakers are planning to travel to Ōtaki to present their films, she said.

An arm of the festival called the Māoriland Rangatahi Film Festival (MRFF) is also set to be a drawcard. It presents indigenous films from around the globe for school students in years five to 13 and at tertiary level, and is aimed at fostering the next generation of Māori storytellers.

Ms de Young said the films present the experiences and identities of young indigenous people from around the world, with students who attend invited to "engage with current issues and unique perspectives that will challenge and inspire".

"The MRFF is programmed for young people (rangatahi) by young people," she said.
"Last week Ngā Pakiaka gathered at the Māoriland Hub with members travelling from as far as Te Kao in the far north to Ōtaki to make their final selection of films. It was a tough hui for them as they tried to fit over 80 films into the two days of their festival."

In 2017 the festival's charitable trust achieved a major goal in the purchase of the Māoriland Hub - the historic former Edhouses department store and the largest commercial building in Ōtaki.

Ms de Young said the Hub is now a source of community pride and wellbeing with regular music, drama and film screenings along with art exhibitions and workshops.

She said the upcoming festival would be a community accessible event with all screenings priced at just $6.

For further information visit www.maorilandfilm.co.nz