Official Selection, 2021 Melbourne International Film Festival
In Kawakawa, a small town in the Northland region of New Zealand, a celebration is brewing for a very special centennial. The hundredth anniversary of Isey Cross’s birth! When Isey was born, chewing gum had yet to be invented, and it was still illegal for Māori children to speak their language in Pākehā (European) schools. When she was almost forty, she “popped out” James, her youngest child and now devoted companion. For James, who returned home decades prior to care for his ailing father, whānau (family) is everything. And, as he reclaims his Maori culture he uses his gifts as a Tohunga Ahurewa (the highest class of priest) to communicate with the ancestors and to thank them for keeping his mum alive.
In the week preceding her birthday, James and Isey open their home and life to award-winning, Auckland-based filmmaker Florian Habicht, who, prior to jumping full-heartedly into this intimate single-camera collaboration, had sworn-off documentary filmmaking. During fishing expeditions, through morning rituals, and facilitated by Habicht’s gently probing questions, we learn the secret to Isey’s longevity: a shot of bourbon whenever she has company, and love, in particular, her son’s. A love that is both profound and utterly ordinary, so consistent day in and day out it can bring you to tears. But there’s no need for melodrama. “Don’t worry,” Isey says, “Be happy.”
Photo courtesy of Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission
Glimmering with private dreams and the gentle pulses of communal care, Rachel Nakawatase films her great-grandmother and Aunties getting ready for a night on the town.