Merata Mita, CNZM (19 June 1942 – 31 May 2010) was a significant filmmaker in New Zealand as well as a key figure in the growth of the Māori screen industry. Mita was from the Māori tribes of Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāi Te Rangi.
Mita was born in Maketu in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand's North Island. She was the third eldest of nine children and had a traditional rural Māori upbringing. She taught at Kawerau College for eight years, where she began using film and video to reach "unteachable" high school students, many of them Māori. The experience eventually led her into a lengthy career in the film and television industry. She was appointed Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours 2010, for services to the film industry.
Mita was the first indigenous woman and the first woman in Aotearoa New Zealand to solely write and direct a dramatic feature film, Mauri (1988) - notwithstanding Ramai Te Miha Hayward's co-direction of To Love A Maori (1972). An accomplished documentary director and producer for more than 25 years, Mita made landmark documentary films such as Patu! (1983) about the violent clashes between anti-apartheid protesters and the police during the controversial 1981 South African Springboks rugby tours in New Zealand. and Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980), about the eviction of Ngāti Whātua from their traditional land. Hotere (2001) documented the life and work of well-known Māori artist Ralph Hotere. She also directed the music video Waka for hip-hop artist Che Fu.
Mita played the role of 'Matu' in the New Zealand feature film Utu directed by her husband Geoff Murphy, starring Anzac Wallace and featuring veteran Māori actor Wi Kuki Kaa. She also acted in the television adaptation of 'The Protesters' written by Rowley Habib.
Documentary on Mita's work
Mita's influence among indigenous filmmakers internationally was considerable, through film organizations and film festivals in which she mentored such as the Sundance Film Festival's Native Film Initiative, the National Geographic All Roads Indigneous Film Festival, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's consortium Pacific Islanders in Communications, and through her teaching at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa.
Mita directed or collaborated on numerous films including:
- Hotere (2001)
- Dread (1996)
- The Shooting of Dominick Kaiwhata (1993)
- Mana Waka (1990)
- Mauri (1988)
- Patu! (1983)
- The Bridge: A Story of Men in Dispute (1982)
- Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980)
- Keskidee Aroha (1980)
- Karanga Hokianga Ki O Tamariki (1979)
- The Hammer and the Anvil (1979)
- "New Year Honours 2010". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Peters, G. (2007). "Lives of their own: Films by Merata Mita". In I. Conrich and S. Murray (Eds.), New Zealand Filmmakers (pp. 103–120). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
- Merata Mita (dead link)
- "A documentary about pioneering Māori filmmaker Merata Mita whose career has spanned 20 years and whose films represent a unique account of New Zealand social and political history." New Zealand Listener
- "Pioneering Kiwi filmmaker Merata Mita dies". 3 News. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- 1981 Shooting Back
- Biography at NZ On Screen
- Watch Patu clip at NZ On Screen
- Patu! background at the NZ Film Archive
- Merata Mita at the Internet Movie Database