7.9/10
30,170
289 user 61 critic

Once Were Warriors (1994)

R | | Crime, Drama | 3 March 1995 (USA)
Trailer
2:08 | Trailer
A family descended from Maori warriors is bedeviled by a violent father and the societal problems of being treated as outcasts.

Director:

Lee Tamahori

Writers:

Riwia Brown, Alan Duff (novel)
22 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Rena Owen ... Beth Heke
Temuera Morrison ... Jake Heke
Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell ... Grace Heke
Julian Arahanga ... Nig Heke
Taungaroa Emile ... Boogie Heke
Rachael Morris Jr. Rachael Morris Jr. ... Polly Heke
Joseph Kairau ... Huata Heke
Cliff Curtis ... Bully
Pete Smith ... Dooley
George Henare ... Bennett
Mere Boynton Mere Boynton ... Mavis
Shannon Williams ... Toot
Calvin Tuteao ... Taka (Gang Leader)
Ray Bishop Ray Bishop ... King Hitter (in pub)
Ian Mune ... Judge
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Storyline

Set in urban Auckland (New Zealand) this movie tells the story of the Heke family. Jake Heke is a violent man who beats his wife frequently when drunk, and yet obviously loves both her and his family. The movie follows a period of several weeks in the family's life showing Jake's frequent outburst of violence and the effect that this has on his family. The youngest son is in trouble with the police and may be put into a foster home while the elder son is about to join a street gang. Jake's daughter has her own serious problems which are a key element in the plot. Written by Chris Maslin <maslinc@cad.canterbury.ac.nz>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Her only chance for the future is to embrace the power of her past. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive language and strong depiction of domestic abuse, including sexual violence and substance abuse | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

FineLine

Country:

New Zealand

Language:

English | Maori | Spanish

Release Date:

3 March 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Once Were Warriors See more »

Filming Locations:

Auckland, New Zealand See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,608,570

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,608,570
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby SR

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Temuera Morrison has commented that he did not expect the film to be a hit. He couldn't contemplate how anyone would want to watch a film containing such violence. See more »

Goofs

The swallow tattoo on Rena Owen's breast disappears between shots. See more »

Quotes

Jake Heke: You're a fucken mess. Don't you ever speak to me again you hear?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Most of the opening credits are either split in half, scattered in different areas of the screen, abnormally shaped or used in small white print. Some are even mixed. See more »

Connections

Referenced in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Lost & Found (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Just like to clear up some misconceptions.
22 August 2003 | by kiwibecaSee all my reviews

I've been reading the comments that people have made on this brilliant piece of film making that makes me proud to be a kiwi. Although I'm not Maori, I have somewhat of an understanding of, and a very deep appreciation for Maori culture. It is after all a major contributor to the uniqueness of New Zealand, and it's what a lot of the tourists come here to see/experience.

Some people have commented that the character of Beth is "descended from Maori royalty" and that the character of Jake is "descended from slaves". That's not quite correct. Although there is a Maori monarch; (Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the current Maori queen lives at the Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, her official residence.) the Maori monarchy only goes back to the 19th century, and its not really representative of all Maori as it only really affects Waikato iwi/hapu, (tribe/sub tribe) It is more likely that Beth would be descended from chiefly linage, and hence she and her whanau, (extended family) would be very much aware of and in tune with their whakapapa or ancestry. Beth's line near the end of the movie that her people "once were warriors" is an indicator of this.

(The facial and body tattoos, or Moko that one sometimes sees Maori wearing are in fact representative of their whakapapa. Also, the carvings that feature on Marae and other carved Maori buildings/gates etc are representative of tribal ancestors, much like Indian Totem poles.)

Jake on the other hand is obviously urbanized. He would most probably know little or nothing about his whakapapa, and in addition he probably would not even be able to identify with an iwi or hapu. This would explain why he makes several references to "Maori bulls***". He is disenfranchised from his culture, and probably doesn't even speak Maori that well. (Although Temurera Morrison himself speaks fluent Maori.) His family have obviously been living in Auckland for so long, and there has been such tribal intermingling, that he doesn't know whether he's Arthur or Martha. And what's more, he doesn't care either.

(For those of you who are interested, the motorway shown at the start of the movie is the Southern Motorway which runs right through South Auckland, which is where *a lot* of Maoris and Pacific Islanders live.)

As other people have said, this kind of thing is sadly not unique to Maori, as American/Canadian Indians and Australian Aborigines can testify. Likewise domestic violence itself is not only limited to minority ethnic groups.

This is easily one of the best movies that I have ever seen. So if you haven't had the privilege of seeing it yet, then I highly recommend that you do so. George Henare's stirring Taiaha scene alone is well worth the cost of getting the movie out.

(A Taiaha is a Maori spear. To use one of these, one must have immense mana, or importance. As Henare's character said, the British *feared* the highly skilled Taiaha warriors.)


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