Eight connected stories. One life-changing event

“The cumulative power of this splintered portrait of community trauma creeps up on you.”

Waru was co-released with Day For Night Films

A groundbreaking production from eight female Māori filmmakers, WARU is the story of a small New Zealand town coming to terms with a bitter tragedy – the death of a small boy, Waru, at the hands of his caregiver.

8 x 10-minute sequences combine to form a narrative that offers a fascinating insight into Māori culture.

Charm, Queen of the Kitchen
Charm learns to accept that she can’t change the world.

A teacher struggles to keep face, hiding infidelities and guilt over Waru’s death.

A solo parent learns to listen to her children.

A young woman hits rock bottom and realises that the only way is up.

An elderly woman relinquishes community pride in order that her grandchild might find spiritual peace.

A young Māori reporter risks everything to set the story straight.

A teenage girl draws strength from her ancestors to expose her abuser.

Titty & Bash
A woman risks life to break a cycle of violence.


Our goal for Waru was to communicate the shared feelings we have towards child abuse in Aotearoa (New Zealand). We felt the best way to tell this story was from a female Māori perspective and from multiple viewpoints.

We invited the 8 filmmakers: Chelsea Cohen, Ainsley Gardiner, Briar Grace-Smith, Paula Jones, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene, Katie Wolfe; each of whom would make one film.

We then set creative restrictions on how all films were to be developed. They were:

10 minutes long.
All set during the same time of day.
All filmed in a single shot.
Lead wahine (female) Māori character.
All connected to the death of Waru.
Only one shoot day per film.

Production took place in August 2016 over 8 days. Our locations were scattered all over Auckland from Tuakau to Karaka to central Auckland to Parakai. Every day began with a karakia (Māori payer) and every day presented new challenges for everyone to overcome in order to shoot the vignette in a single shot.

As it turned out some directors ended up with a number of full takes but others only ended up with one or two. Most of the directors decided to splice different takes together if they had the option to. The reason we had given the restriction to film in one shot wasn’t just as a creative challenge but in order to give the feeling of sharing a moment in time with these characters. The actors are living these moments in real-time and we are able to watch their entire journey over the 10 minutes.

We believe WARU is not only a new take on the anthology film genre but also shares important thoughts on child abuse and the factors associated with it from the perspective of wāhine Māori (Māori women).
Kerry Warkia & Kiel McNaughton, Producers

Released in the UK Friday 9th November 2018

  • Director: Ainsley Gardiner, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene, Briar Grace Smith, Paula Whetu Jones, Chelsea Cohen, Katie Wolfe
  • Year: 2017
  • Duration: 86 mins
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production company: Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions, Department Of Post
  • Cert: 15

IMDB page

“It’s a remarkable achievement – authentic, impassioned, unexpected – that stands as a testament to the radical power of cooperative film-making.”

Mark Kermode
The Observer

Sign-up for more Tull Stories

Join our mailing list to stay informed about future film releases, cinema projects and development surveys, adventure cinema and more.