Only one screening of Maui's Hook is scheduled for the Far North, at Te Ahu, in Kaitaia, on Wednesday October 31. Admission will be free, but the time has yet to be confirmed.

When Taiharuru (Whangarei) couple Sam and Gina Albert were approached by the Ngati Hine Health Trust to take part in a movie about their son's suicide, although it was raw, they jumped right in.

They both felt it was time to be open and talk about what they'd been through.

With careful guidance from clinical psychologist and film-maker Paora Te Oti Takarangi Joseph, the Alberts say they were able to start the healing process by talking about their experience with the four other families the film documented on their journey from each marae to Te Reinga Wairua (Cape Reinga) to say goodbye to their loved ones.


"As far as I'm concerned, if you don't talk about it, it just eats you up inside, and we thought if we could get on board with other whanau that had been through it, we could talk about it," Mr Albert said.

"I said in the film, to start the healing process I had to forgive myself. I didn't believe that I was a good father because my son took his life. I had to forgive my son for what he did. That's where my healing started, through forgiving myself and my son."

Mrs Albert said she was normally not one to show her grief because she did not like to "unload" on people, but taking part in the film had enabled her to focus on herself and heal.

"As a mum, we take care of everyone else. We don't take care of ourselves. In the process of Maui's Hook, being catered to, not having to cook and just those simple things, I had nothing to worry about. I looked at myself and that journey was healing for me. That was a blessing for me, that I came away from it lighter and spiritually renewed," she said.

One of the most difficult parts of the film for the couple to watch was when their daughter unveiled some of her experiences with her brother, which they hadn't known of until filming. Although it broke her heart, it enabled Mrs Albert to see what her daughter had been carrying.

"I just wanted to hold her and take all her pain and tell her how brave she was for even telling us that. They caught that moment on film and it just broke me," she said.
"You can't hide anything on the big screen. I think whoever watches it is going to see that pain and the love at that moment."

Mr Paora felt especially connected to the Alberts because of their raw honesty in the film. "They're absolutely direct, vulnerable and totally open," he said.

"It's that type of honesty that truly affects people. It's not all your prescribed psychological paradigms or methodology or that sort of thing. It's not saying that you have all the answers, but in your vulnerability and in your honesty, the answers come flowing forth from that."

The film had sold out throughout the North Island, and had led conversations about suicide, because audiences felt it provided a safe environment in which to talk.

"Everywhere the film is going there are people in the room who have been affected directly or indirectly by suicide, and if we have that kaupapa on the table then no one's alienated and we're all together, and that's the power. The power is from the people," he said.

Mr Albert said the whole process made him open up to his whanau, instead of telling them to get over it and harden up.

"It's made me more soft and open to being able to talk about things with them," he said.

"This film needs to be shown everywhere, because we're losing all our young ones. If you can set up groups with people who have been through it and suffered through it, then it can help people who are too shy to talk about it. That sort of set-up would be awesome."
Mrs Albert felt strongly that suicide is not always talked about openly.

"We've got to give our children an environment to talk about anything, good or bad, and not be judged. If they are thinking about it, they need to talk to us about it. We also need to allow them to grieve, but not glorify it, because that's what I see a lot of," she said.

Maui's Hook is described as a raw, compelling road trip of loss, forgiveness and redemption. It invites open discussion of suicide through the brave testimony of five grieving families travelling to Cape Reinga. Set alongside the families is Tama, a disturbed young man on the destructive road of no return.

Invoking the skills, cunning and defiance of Maui, the title of the film alludes to the line on a map traced by the bus trip the film takes from Parihaka in Taranaki to Te Rerenga Wairua. The travellers who join this hikoi wairua are five families grieving the suicide of someone close. Their stories give the film its soul-stirring centre.

Addressing the demographic most commonly reflected in New Zealand's suicide statistics, the story introduces a fictional surrogate in Tama (Niwa Whatuira), who observes the suffering of loved ones left behind and understands too late that while his pain and anger need not be permanent, death most surely is.

The film is intended to change attitudes and provoke action.