Review: “Ka Whawhai Tonu” is a gripping account of New Zealand’s pivotal period

Jul 5, 2024

Ka Whawhai Tonu New Zealand Movie

“Ka Whawhai Tonu” (“Struggle Without End”) follows the 1864 historic siege of O-Rākau in Waikato, a pivotal moment in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand where the Māori fight for their land against British forces. This year marks its 160th anniversary, but it is surprising to know that this is the first film to tell this piece of history from the Māori perspective, in te reo.

It was a long time coming to tell this story. Producer Piriti Curtis noted in an interview that his team took over eight years of development and requests for funding before they landed on a budget enough for production. Operating on only $7.6 million, “Ka Whawhai Tonu” doesn’t feel too limiting of its budget. Oftentimes, you can sense each scene is handled with a labor of passion.

It can demand a more ambitious production given the setting of its story, but its decision to narrow the narrative down to two rangatahi (young Māori) is critical for the message they’re trying to convey. The young characters serve as the ray of hope amid the war’s fierceness. They stood their ground up to the very end, which fascinatingly reflects what is happening behind the camera.

Ka Whawhai Tonu New Zealand Movie

We later learn that the nationalism in these rangatahi reflects the camaraderie present in the film’s cast and crew, most of which are descendants of the Māori who fought during the war. By then, the intention becomes crystal clear. Producing and presenting this film to an audience is an act of defiance. The fight to tell their story, regardless of how hard and long it took, will continue to live on.

It’s important to look at the film on this lens. What director Michael Jonathan achieved is a touching and at most times, gripping film that I wish more people would get to watch.

Ka Whawhai Tonu New Zealand Movie

“Ka Whawhai Tonu” took a while to find its footing, but when it finally does, it becomes riveting. Great performances all around too, with Temuera Morrison giving an uncanny performance as Rewi Maniapoto.

“Ka Whawhai Tonu” is now showing in New Zealand cinemas.

Featured images courtesy of Transmission Films.


Related Posts


{{posts[0].date}} {{posts[0].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[1].date}} {{posts[1].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[2].date}} {{posts[2].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[3].date}} {{posts[3].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}