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AINSLEYGARDINER COUSINS Since she first made her mark in the New Zealand film industry, Ainsley Gardiner has sought out stories by two groups who have often battled to be heard on screen: Ma¯ori and women. As a producer and director, she has most ably achieved exactly that, and in 2018 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for her work in film and television. Hélène Ravlich talks to her about her work. Her latest project soon to hit our screens is an astonishingly-moving adaptation of award- winning New Zealand author Patricia Grace’s novel Cousins . Co-directed with Briar Grace- Smith, it tells the story of three Ma¯ori women whose lives demonstrate that shared whaka- papa can never truly be cut, despite distance, time, and heartbreak. Respected New Zealand filmmaker MerataMita had planned to make her own film based on the novel after the author handed her a copy at a marae after its release in 1992. Despite having written an elegant and emotive script, Mita was unable to secure adequate funding to produce the movie before her untimely death in 2010. One of Gardiner and Grace-Smith’s mentors, Mita was a formidable presence in both women’s lives, and it’s apt that the film has finally come to fruition under their careful hands. When we talk, Gardiner tells me she has read Mita’s script and calls it “absolutely beautiful”, lamenting that a lack of understanding at the time about how to bring a multinarrative to the screen that had a passive protagonist who was both homeless and mute – and more importantly, Ma¯ori – meant it was overlooked. In 2021 funding bodies are better educated and audiences more comfortable with seeing our own stories told, and between Mita’s time and Gardiner and Grace-Smith’s, Gaylene Preston and Robin Laing also had a version of Cousins ultimately fall by the wayside. Gardiner says that the long gestation has meant that not only has the film been funded, “but two

“IT’S TIKANGA FOR US, AN UNDERLYING WAY OF WORKING THAT IS JUST NATURAL FOR NOW. LIFE&ART HAVE NO BOUNDARIES.”

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