Merata Mita (19 June 1942 – 31 May 2010) was a New Zealand filmmaker and a key figure in the growth of the Māori screen industry. She was from the Māori iwi of Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāi Te Rangi.


Mita was born in Maketu in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand's North Island. She was the third eldest of nine children and had a traditional rural Māori upbringing. She taught at Kawerau College for eight years, where she began using film and video to reach high school students characterized as "unteachable", many of them Māori. The experience eventually led her into a lengthy career in the film and television industry. She moved to Hawaii in 1990 and taught documentary film making at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.


Mita was the first indigenous woman and the first woman in Aotearoa New Zealand to solely write and direct a dramatic feature film. Hers was ''Mauri'' (1988). In 1972 she had been co-director with Ramai Te Miha Hayward of ''To Love A Māori''. An accomplished documentary director and producer for more than 25 years, Mita made landmark documentary films such as, ''Patu!'' (1983), about the violent clashes between anti-apartheid protesters and the police during the controversial 1981 South African Springboks rugby tours in New Zealand and ''Bastion Point: Day 507'' (1980), about the eviction of Ngāti Whātua from their traditional land. ''Hotere'' (2001) documented the life and work of well-known Māori artist Ralph Hotere. She also directed the music video ''Waka'' for hip-hop artist Che Fu.


Mita played the role of 'Matu' in the New Zealand feature film ''Utu'', which was directed by her husband Geoff Murphy, starred Anzac Wallace, and featured veteran Māori actor Wi Kuki Kaa. She also acted in the television adaptation of ''The Protesters'', written by Rowley Habib.

Documentary on Mita's work

In 1998, Mita was the subject of a documentary in the television series, ''Rangatira: Merata Mita – Making Waves'', directed by Hinewehi Mohi. In October 2014, NZ on Air announced funding for a biographical film, ''Te Taki A Merata Mita – How Mum Decolonised The Screen'', to be directed by her son Heperi Mita, for cinematic release and screening on Māori Television. On 28 November 2018, the documentary was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival in their 2019 programme.

International influence

Mita's influence among indigenous filmmakers internationally was considerable, through film organizations and film festivals in which she mentored, such as the Sundance Film Festival's Native Film Initiative, the National Geographic All Roads Indigenous Film Festival, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's consortium Pacific Islanders in Communications, and through her teaching at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.

Recognition and awards

Some of Mita's recognition and awards included Flaherty Seminar's "Leo Dratfield Award for Commitment and Excellence in Documentary" in 1996, Taos Film Festival's "Mountain Award for excellence, commitment, and innovation" in 1999, the Te Waka Toi, part of the Creative New Zealand Te Tohu Toi Ke – "Making a difference" Award (2009), and the 2010 New Year Honours, when she was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the film industry.

Personal life

Mita had six children: Rafer, Richard, Rhys, Awatea, Eruera and Hepi. Her son Hepi Mita from her long time relationship with Geoff Murphy produced a documentary on his mother's cinematic legacy which was released in 2019.


Mita died suddenly on 31 May 2010, after collapsing outside the studios of Māori Television.


Mita directed or collaborated on numerous films, including: *''Karanga Hokianga'' (1979) – Director, co-editor *''Bastion Point: Day 507'' (1980) – Co-director, co-editor *''The Hammer and the Anvil'' (1980) – Co-director, co-producer *''Kinleith '80'' (1981) – Community liaison *''Keskidee Aroha'' (1981) – Co-director, co-producer *''The Bridge: A Story of Men in Dispute'' (1982) – Co-director *''Patu!'' (1983) – Director, producer *''Mauri'' (1988) *''Mana Waka'' (1990) – Director, sound designer *''The Shooting of Dominick Kaiwhata'' (1993) *''Dread'' (1996) – Director, writer *''Te Paho'' (1997) – Director, writer *''Hotere'' (2001) – Director, writer, producer *''Saving Grace'' (2011) (''Te Whakarauora Tangata'')


External links

*Chloe Cull
Considering Merata Mita's Legacy
in ''Love Feminisms'', Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2015 *Brannavan Gnanalingam
A Magnificent Salvage: ''Mana Waka''
Lumiere Reader, 2011
Biography at NZ On ScreenWatch Patu clip at NZ On Screen
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Mita, Merata Category:1942 births Category:2010 deaths Category:Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit Category:Indigenous filmmakers in New Zealand Category:New Zealand film directors Category:New Zealand film producers Category:New Zealand Māori actresses Category:New Zealand Māori schoolteachers Category:New Zealand women film directors Category:Ngāti Pikiao Category:Ngāi Te Rangi Category:University of Hawaii faculty