Magazine article New Internationalist

Once Were Warriors

Magazine article New Internationalist

Once Were Warriors

Article excerpt

ADAPTED FROM ALAN DUFF'S controversial novel by playwright Riwia Brown, Once Were Warriors is a raw and bold tale of family life in contemporary urban Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is not the green forests of God's own country, but a nicotine-yellow concrete wasteland of shanty-style houses. It is also very much a woman's story, told mostly from the point of view of Beth Heke, a proud woman who left her Maori homelands to marry her husband Jake.

But eighteen years and five children later, the marriage is held together by some strange kind of love as Beth is subjected to Jake's shockingly abusive behaviour. Unemployed, he drinks and gambles away the housekeeping money with his mates at the local roadhouse and turns upon Beth when she complains. As a result Beth invests all the more in her children and their future.

Duff's novel received some criticism for its depiction of Maori men as lazy, drunken brutes. But this film comes up with no such simplistic pronouncements. Jake's conduct towards Beth is connected to his own sense of desolation as the working-class Maori is seen to be well and truly abandoned by his or her country. …

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