Writer’s Notes

Whakatiki – What’s in a name?

Whakatiki (pronounced fa-ka-tickee) is a Maori word.  The film is named after the Whakatiki river in which I spent so many summers as a girl. I knew that river intimately. I knew where it tripped lightly over sun-filled shallows and where it sucked down deep in a whirlpool to the darkness below, where eels waited to bite my toes.  I knew its smell and I knew its sound, below the surface.  And it knew me, from my very insides out.  It filled my ears and nose and I swallowed it and absorbed it through the pores of my skin.  Something like that – and the sense of belonging and oneness it brings – never leaves you.  Even if you leave it.  And my memories of this undoubtedly created the intensely lush and tactile images of Whakatiki.

It wasn’t until some time after I’d written the script that I made the discovery that Whakatiki means ‘to rise up’ or ‘to lift with enthusiasm.’  Despite our physical differences, there were distinct similarities between Kiri and I.  This was when I understood that Whakatiki isn’t a film for ‘fat people.’  It’s a film for all people, because, to some degree or other, many of us are carrying, in our own way, the ‘baggage’ Kiri carries around and I believe that each of us yearns for the ‘weightlessness’ Kiri experiences in the water, whether we’re aware of it or not.  This is why Whakatiki holds appeal for audiences worldwide.  No matter what the language or culture, as human beings we all long for the freedom we had before we became weighed down with the baggage of life.

It’s my hope that Whakatiki changes lives.  It’s my hope that the courage of Kiri gives the audience the courage to make changes in their own lives – to make a stand, to strive for something better, to be kinder to themselves and to be free.

In this way the spirit is still rising.  And gives so much to the name.  Whakatiki.

Working Relationships

Making Whakatiki has been an amazing experience, however, the highlight for me has been working with Louise.

From very early on I had a strong sense that Louise was the right director for Whakatiki. Right from the outset, Louise was committed to preserving the integrity of the story.  My opinions have always been valued, and on the rare occasion when we didn’t agree about a point, it was ironically comforting to hear her say, ‘Well, we’ll just have to agree to differ on that one.’  She has always been very clear about her artistic prerogative and I trust that when she has a conviction about something, she’s probably right.

It is this mutual respect, underpinned by a quiet confidence in our respective crafts, that makes for an awesome team and ultimately an awesome production.  For which I’ll be eternally grateful.