Maui Arts & Entertainment

New Zealand Indigenous Drama “Cousins” to Debut Theatrically in Hawai’i, July 2

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Image courtesy of ARRAY Releasing/Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith.

ARRAY Releasing, the distribution arm of Ava DuVernay’s Peabody Award-winning arts and social impact collective ARRAY, is releasing the New Zealand box-office hit “Cousins.” The film will debut theatrically on O’ahu on July 2, before premiering worldwide on Netflix on July 22, 2021.

Cousins, directed by Award-winning Māori filmmaking duo Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, had its worldwide premiere at the Māoriland Film Festival in New Zealand where it won the 2021 People’s Choice for Best Feature Drama. The film debuted at number one at New Zealand’s box office when it was released earlier this year.

The film is produced by an all-female, Māori team and features nine Māori actresses playing three cousins across three stages of their lives.

Cousins follows three Māori cousins—Mata, Missy and Makareta—who lead separate lives, yet are bound together forever. Orphaned Mata believes she has no whānau (family) and lives out her lonely childhood in fear and bewilderment. Back home on the land in New Zealand, driven and educated Makareta flees an arranged marriage to study law and begin the search for her missing cousin. She leaves behind cheeky yet dutiful Missy who takes on her role of kaitiaki (guardian) of the land. As the years pass and land surveyors begin to encroach, their promise to bring their stolen cousin home seems more unlikely than ever, until a chance encounter changes everything.

The film is directed by Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, who both received the Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellowship in 2019, and who each directed a segment for the critically acclaimed feature film WARU, which world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017.

Ainsley Gardiner, in addition to being a talented director, is well known for producing Taika Waititi’s early work including the acclaimed comedies Eagle vs Shark, and Boy, as well as festival favorites including The Breaker Upperers. Cousins is Briar Grace-Smith’s second feature film as a director; she also wrote the film, and stars as adult Makareta.


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