Through one incredible journey this doc immerses us in the Maori world in a way very few ethnographic explorations manage. In the 60s Allan, a young photographer, traveled through Aotearoa, obsessed with preserving the image of the moko, a Maori tattoo put on the chins of the Kuia women. Uncovering this breathtaking collections of photographs and his memories, the wisdom and beauty of an ancient culture is uniquely captured.
"There was no one else like her; I could hear her speaking to those who had long passed on; to the people in the photos, which hung on the walls", Warena Taua explains about his mother, as he gazes upon one of Allan's photos. "Her thoughts turned to those from the distant past. For her, they were all still very much alive." In the transformed New Zealand of the mid 20th Century Baldwin framed a culture that rarely let Westerners in. Baldwin broke the normal boundaries of an inward-looking people, getting unprecedented access to the Maori. It exposed them to film, and him to their rich culture.
Vitally important to the Maori is the culture of the Moko, their beautifully crafted facial tattoos. As one Maori photographed by Allan explains, "I've been carrying my people on my back all these years and now I'm going to carry them on my face". Hokimoana, daughter of a Maori elder, says, "if I didn't assume my Mother's Moko, it would be lost forever". Baldwin's art has captured and understood a fragile culture few rarely engage with.
As Baldwin was once told by a Maori lady, "you know last time I had my photo taken my Moko faded". Baldwin's perseverance makes sure that Maori Moko wont "fade".This beautifully observed documentary examines an extraordinary spiritual society and a sensitive artist, asking powerful questions about the balance between maintaining tradition and following modernity.
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Best Documentary - Aotearoa - Allan Baldwin in Frame, Wairoa Maori Film Festival
In Competition, 10th FIFO (Festival international du film documentaire oceanien) 2013
Margaret Mead Film Festival 2013, Official Selection