Poi E: Tearepa Kahi on learning


When asked about the difference between making a dramatic feature like his Mt Zion and a documentary like Poi E, Tearepa points to the commonality of the goal: “What they both share, in the director’s vision and in the storyteller’s vision, is the desire to bring out magic. Now that’s a very non-technical thing to say, but ultimately when you are watching a screen story in the cinema, it has to be about magic. It has to be about feelings, it has to be about emotion.

“You can concentrate on the technicalities of the story, and how great the single shots are, but three shots don’t make magic, even though they might look beautiful, even though they might be well-timed. So how do we introduce a heartbeat into the story?

“It’s hard to talk about the technicalities and the heartbeat but what I do know is they both take time, and they both take a huge amount of energy, passion and commitment.

“With a drama, you have a script and the actors, and you can direct it to bring out the best performances. With a documentary it’s the spirit of the story. You’re relying on elements that are beyond your control, because you haven’t created them, they are living in other people, they reside in different spaces, in different formats. So it’s a beautiful mystery, it requires much more than you think it does, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.”

Documentary filming has taught him a lot that he feels he can take back to any narrative or script work. “One thing you can never underplay is how much real people will surprise you. They are always beyond what you can imagine. You can write the best improvisational script ever, but it will never come close to having Auntie Bib and Uncle Bub sit at the table and talk for 20 seconds – you’ll be eclipsed.”

It was this realisation that led Tearepa to withdraw himself from the doco as a narrative voice. “My imagination was constantly eclipsed by Dalvanius’ personality, his phrases, his take, his insight, his honesty, his intimacy.”

Aunty Bib and Nana Bub, Patea Maori Club Photo: Tuteri Rangihaeata

Aunty Bib and Nana Bub, Patea Maori Club
Photo: Tuteri Rangihaeata