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First Public Screening of Restored Film Brings Past to Life

New Zealand’s first public screening of the newly restored 1921 film "Scenes of Māori Life on the Whanganui River" is tomorrow night (Tuesday 19 July), 6pm at the Whanganui Regional Museum.

Entry is by koha.

Scenes of Māori Life on the Whanganui River (Dominion Museum, 1921)

The film will screen for iwi tonight (Monday 18 July) at Te Ao Hou Marae, having been painstakingly restored and scanned by conservators at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision – the audiovisual archive for all New Zealanders.

“It’s important that we first return this film to the iwi of Whanganui, whose ancestors’ lives and images are recorded,” says Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Kaiwhakataki / Programme Coordinator, Lawrence Wharerau.

“These images have regained clarity and freshness with the restoration work. It’s a spectacular piece of footage that brings the past to life.”

The original film was shot in 1921, when Elsdon Best, Johannes Anderson and James McDonald of the Dominion Museum spent several weeks at Koriniti, Hiruharama and Pipiriki in the Whanganui River valley. Te Rangi Hiroa (Dr Peter Buck) joined them for a few days at Koriniti. The scenes record games, crafts such as dyeing and weaving, cultivation, fishing, the making of hinaki for eels, the setting of traps and divinatory rites such as niu and raurau.

Back in the 1920s, film was silent and the local cinema experience relied on a narrator and musicians. The Whanganui screenings will follow this spirit, narrated by Lawrence and accompanied by traditional musical instruments – taonga pūoro.

Scenes of Māori Life on the Whanganui River and other films shot by James McDonald are part of the Taonga Māori Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Ngā Taonga is the audiovisual archive for all New Zealanders, with a collection of 750,000 titles in film, television and sound spanning 120 years.