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Fredrick’s short film a festival hit


Filmmaker Fredrick Pokai came to the 11th Māoriland Film Festival hoping for favourable reaction to his new short film, Search for Hawaiki.

He got it – it was a highlight of the festival. The script, the acting, the direction and subtle music were superb. They took viewers on a tear-jerking journey familiar to many, made more so because it was filmed not far away in Tītahi Bay.

It was one of the stand-out films specially chosen for Māoriland viewing, but as with many of the festival screenings, appeal extends far beyond the indigenous. It’s a film for everyone.

Fredrick (Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa) was born and raised in Gisborne, and now resides in upmarket Remuera, Auckland – “We’ve got the worst house in the street,” he says with a smile.

Fredrick Pokai relaxes in the garden of a friend during the 2024 Māoriland Film Festival – “The festival makes it feels like something amazing is happening.”

Photo Ōtaki Today

On leaving school, Fredrick did a one-year course in contemporary Māori art at Gisborne’s Matapuna Training Centre. It led to an exhibition of Gisborne artists at Seatoun in Wellington, which in turn drew him to the capital city and another course, this time in multimedia at the National College of Art and Design.

He returned briefly to Gisborne then went to Whitianga where he started writing scripts and making the films he’d always had a yearning to do. Meantime, he also had several roles as an actor in New Zealand movies, including in The Haka and Births, Deaths and Marriages. The showmanship was undoubtedly helped by two years competing on the pro wrestling circuit.

His first script to be filmed was The Red President in 2014. In 2019 he wrote, produced and starred in Beneath the Mountains. He won the best actor award at the 2023 Vision Feast Film Festival for his role in Bringing Mere Home, which he also wrote.

“I always loved the cinema and I always thought I could make my own films, as a writer and director,” he says.

Fredrick was one of hundreds of film industry stars who arrived for the Māoriland Film Festival. He loved bringing Search for Hawaiki to an Ōtaki audience.

“I got a really warm reaction to the film, and it’s great to be here,” he said as he relaxed in the sun at the house of a friend’s where he was hosted. “Ōtaki is a small town, but the festival makes it feels like something amazing is happening.

“It’s my first visit, but it won’t be my last.”



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Fredrick’s short film a festival hit

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