The film festival offering a view into what it means to be an indigenous person and the hardships faced will be in town again.

The Rotorua Indigenous Film Festival (RIFF) is being held this September promising a selection of the best indigenous films from around the world.

Known as the heartland of Māori culture, Rotorua City offered an immersive 21st-century indigenous experience for filmgoers and makers travelling to the festival.

RIFF was created by a group of award-winning Rotorua Māori filmmakers Piripi Curtis, Mike Jonathan and Lara Northcroft of Steambox Collective.


The three-day event, beginning on September 26, is based around Māori values of manaakitanga (hospitality) and kotahitanga (unity).

Director of RIFF Piripi Curtis said last year's inaugural festival was extremely popular and had sold out screenings of short and feature films.

"Indigenous storytelling through film is on the rise and with our festival being held in the heartland of Māori culture, it is the perfect setting," he said.

Liliu and TAKE are two of the indigenous short films that will feature this year.

Jeremiah Tauamiti's film Liliu is a post-World War I courtroom drama set and shot in Sāmoa.

It tackles universal indigenous themes like the sacredness of life and land through the Pacific Gaze.

It follows the story of a young ambitious court interpreter who risks everything when Nua, a wrongfully imprisoned chief, fights to get back to her stranded grandchildren.

"Having a voice in your own country is hard enough, but when you're jailed for literally using your language and culture, that is perhaps the worst kind of imprisonment," Tauamiti said.


TAKE is a non-fiction film directed by Australian born Māori dancer and performance artist Victoria Hunt.

Dance and archival materials are woven together and TAKE retells the story of the removal of the ancestral Māori meeting house, Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito, from Aotearoa to England in 1892.

Set in the liminal spaces between history and emotion TAKE unfolds a story of origins, of traumatic events and colonial violence.

RIFF also offers educational workshops, networking opportunities with top filmmakers and a red carpet event.

"Pitch your project" was one of the most popular sections of the festival where aspiring writers and filmmakers could present their film idea to a team of judges to win seed funding.

Curtis said the workshops would be a chance for young or budding filmmakers to learn about accessing funding, how to write good stories and the craft of filmmaking.

"Aspiring filmmakers and writers need to mark this in their calendars," Curtis said.

Last year's festival launched with a screening of Merata: How Mum Decolonised The Screen.

It also included a special screening of Maui's Hook, produced by Karen Waaka-Tibble as well as The Breaker Upperers, starring Madeline Sami, James Rolleston and Jackie Van Beek.

The festival will open with a pōwhiri at Tama-te-kapua Marae and will finish with a gala function at Mitai Māori Village

The venues for screenings

Te Papaiouru Marae

Mataiawhea St, Ohinemutu, Rotorua

The Old Odeon - Destiny Theatre
Cnr Tutanekai & Pukaki Sts, Rotorua

Manupirua Springs
Lake Rotoiti, Rotorua
This screening can only be accessed by industry ticket holders and invited guests.