Muru @ TIFF

The treatment of indigenous populations. It is terrible the world over. The original inhabitants of the land the world over have seen their rights trampled on, their land taken away and have been subject to genocide and violence for centuries. Even though the ruling, largely white populations like to pretend that they are seeking reconciliation or are woke, that awful treatment continues to this day. It is shameful. The only crime indigenous populations have committed is existing.

My first TIFF film for 2022 is the perfect illustration of just that. A film from New Zealand and directed/written by Tearepa Kahl (Mt. Zion) based on true events. In 2007 the New Zealand police raided the Ngai Tuhoe community for supposed breaches of the Terrorism Suppression Act. Eighteen were arrested by the 300 police who acted in the raids. Only 4 of those arrested actually were brought to trial while the raids cost New Zealanders over $14 million dollars. Ah, the glory of systematic racism.

Here we get a dramatic interpretation of what went on during those raids. Local police Sergeant ‘Taffy’ Tawharau (Cliff Curtis – Training Day, Once Were Warriors) finds himself having to choose between his job and his people.

It is a school day and the police decide to launch a raid on Taffy’s Ruatoki community. It gets out of hand, shots are fired and a young member of the community is on the run. He is being hunted down while gravely injured in the exchange of gunfire with the police, led by Gallagher (Jay Ryan – from television’s Beauty and the Beast) and Kimiora (Manu Bennett – from televison’s Arrow).

Taffy sees people he knows and loves threatened by the police. He has to make the decision as to which side he will stand with. All this while bullets are flying. He is caught between a rock and a hard place leading to both sides questioning his loyalty.

If this does not resonate with you then you really have to examine how you are leading your life. It is a fictional film but inspired by things that have happened over and over to indigenous populations in New Zealand and other places around the globe. Racism is ugly and destructive. It costs lives. You see how many innocents – here children and elderly – get caught in the crossfire.

The aim here is obviously to replicate how indigenous people find themselves in unjust situations. Just because of who they are. They commit no crimes yet are thought to be guilty by default by those in power. Kahl tells the story in a linear fashion though he shows both sides of this coin by jumping from the police’s point of view to those of the indigenous community and then on to Taffy’s.

Cliff Curtis shows why he has become one of New Zealand’s most employed film actors. He is solid here bringing to life a guy who, no matter what decision he makes is going to create enemies. A realistically written character.

Muru’s screening at TIFF is the film’s international premiere. Next up for it is the Busan International Film Festival.