The Maori Merchant of Venice

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The Maori Merchant of Venice
Directed byDon Selwyn
Written byWilliam Shakespeare
Pei Te Hurinui Jones
Produced byRuth Kaupua
StarringWaihoroi Shortland
Ngarimu Daniels
Te Rangihau Gilbert
Scotty Morrison
Veeshayne Armstrong
Eru Potaka-Dewes
Release date
  • 17 February 2002 (2002-02-17)
Running time
158 minutes
CountryNew Zealand

The Maori Merchant of Venice (Māori: Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti) is a 2002 New Zealand drama film in the Māori language (with English subtitles), directed by Don Selwyn.


The play The Merchant of Venice was translated into Māori in 1945[1] by Pei Te Hurinui Jones,[2] and his translation is used for the film.[3] It is the first Māori-language film adaptation of any of William Shakespeare's plays.[1] The film was shot in Auckland, but "recreate[d] 16th century Venice, with costumes and surroundings to fit the original setting".[1]


Almost all the film's actors are Māori, many of them acting for the cinema for the first time.[1] Waihoroi Shortland stars as Hairoka (Shylock),[4] Ngarimu Daniels as Pohia (Portia), Te Rangihau Gilbert as Patanio (Bassanio), Scotty Morrison as Anatonio (Antonio)[5] and Veeshayne Armstrong as Nerita (Nerissa).[6][7]


According to the New Zealand Film Commission, the film deals with the themes of "religious discrimination, revenge for past wrongs", and "explores the nature of justice and mercy" as well as "the effect of heritage on an individual’s life decisions and the strength, wit and wisdom of women": "The Maori take on Shakespeare's 'pound of flesh' drama is a story of deep seated social and religious prejudice, in which the Jew (Shylock) has a long memory of oppression, but revenge is not so sweet."[8] Valerie Wayne, in The Contemporary Pacific, underlined the apparent parallel drawn by the film between the oppression suffered by Shylock because of his Judaism and the sometimes violent subjugation of Māori by the colonial authorities in nineteenth century New Zealand.[9]

Reviewing The Maori Merchant of Venice for Te Kete Ipurangi,[10] Lana Simmons-Donaldson described it as "an educational, even motivational tool" for Māori language learners, and provided glowing praise:

No sex, action or violence here, Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Wēniti makes a refreshing change to the usual menu on offer to the movie going public. Chivalry, camaraderie, romance, justice, honour, cruelty, aristocracy and poverty all in te reo Māori, it's very palatable even exquisite depending on your taste. [...] Rurutao (Shakespeare) himself would have wept at its poetic brilliance.[11]


The film won the audience award for best feature at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2002, while Waihoroi Shortland won the film award for best actor at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards in 2003.[6]

Other Māori productions of Shakespeare plays[edit]

The Merchant of Venice is not the only Shakespearian play to have been adapted to Māori themes, though it is the only one to have been released as a feature film. Adaptations of Othello, using a Māori cast and usually set during either the Musket Wars or New Zealand Wars of the nineteenth century, have been performed on numerous occasions since the late 1990s,[12] most notably at Christchurch's Court Theatre in 2001.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d "Shakespeare goes Maori", BBC, 4 December 2001
  2. ^ "Jones, Pei Te Hurinui 1898 - 1976", Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
  3. ^ "The Maori Merchant of Venice" on IMDb
  4. ^ Screen, NZ On. "Waihoroi Shortland | NZ On Screen". Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  5. ^ Screen, NZ On. "Scotty Morrison | NZ On Screen". Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  6. ^ a b "The Maori Merchant of Venice" on IMDb
  7. ^ "Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti", Allmovie
  8. ^ "The Maori Merchant of Venice", New Zealand Film Commission
  9. ^ Review of Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti, The Maori Merchant of Venice, Wayne, Valerie, The Contemporary Pacific, volume 16, number 2, autumn 2004, ISSN 1043-898X, pp. 425–429
  10. ^ A Māori language learning centre supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Education.
  11. ^ "He pitopito kōrero na Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori", Simmons-Donaldson, Lana, Te Kete Ipurangi
  12. ^ Remaking Shakespeare: Performance Across Media, Genres and Cultures, Ed. Pascale Aebischer, Nigel Wheale and Ed Esche, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p. 83
  13. ^ Othello Polynesia, New Zealand Theatre Review

External links[edit]