Review: Whina Cooper biopic is long overdue

Richard Martin
Source: 1News

How has it taken this long for a Dame Whina Cooper movie?

Dame Whina led a very cinematic life. If you're not sure who she is (which you really should), Whina would be a good introduction to the woman dubbed 'the mother of the nation' years before Judy Bailey or Hilary Barry.

The film uses a typical biopic structure of jumping between different stages in Dame Whina's life, using her earlier years to give context for the historic 1975 Māori land march.

A lot of praise has rightly been heaped on actresses Rena Owen and Miriama McDowell who share the role of Dame Whina at different ages. Future star Tioreore Ngatai Melbourne plays a much younger Dame Whina and shines with her limited screen time.

READ MORE: Film on life of respected kuia Dame Whina Cooper set for release

Some may call the film formulaic - I may even be one of them - but there's a reason films have formulas. I'm not someone who thinks every film needs to redefine cinema as a medium; some films are told through tried and true methods and that's OK.

Watching this movie serves as a reminder of how many great stories we have in our own backyard. There's dozens of badass film-worthy figures in New Zealand history long overdue for a film of their own and I hope that Whina is the first in a long line of them.