Maori-language version of ‘Moana’ is a first for New Zealand

Day and Date Down Under

For the first time ever, a film has been translated into New Zealand's indigenous language, Maori. The Maori-language version of Disney's animated film Moana had its premiere in September, followed by 30 free screenings around the country. Some 3.7% of New Zealanders speak Maori. Moana has also been translated into Tahitian, another first for a Disney animated feature.

The Paramount Cinema opened in Wellington New Zealand in 1917 and had what is expected to have been its final screening in September. The theatre has a number of problems including broken windows, a leaking roof and a structure that needs to be strengthened to meet new earthquake requirements. The cinema was slated to close earlier in the year, but a six-month extension of the lease was provided so that the New Zealand International Film Festival and some other events could go ahead. A proposed new lease was not considered viable and it now looks like the Paramount's days as a cinema have ended.

Event Cinemas just opened a new eight-plex at Westfield Whitfords in Perth. This multiplex includes two large VMax screens. Event is also expanding in New Zealand, with plans announced for a new six-plex in Tauranga. Stage one of Tauranga Crossing Shopping Centre opened in late 2016 and stage two, which includes the new Event Cinemas, has received planning approval and is set to open in late 2018. This complex will include one VMax screen.

Kiwi director Taika Waititi is said to have been offered Warner Bros.’ new live-action version of the classic Japanese anime film Akira. The movie was released in Japan in 1988 and had international releases about two years later, with an English version shown from 1991. The original was set in Tokyo, but it appears the remake will have Manhattan as its major setting. 

Producers Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea recently had huge success with “Big Little Lies,” winning several television Emmys. The duo are teaming up with Australian actress Naomi Watts for the family film Penguin Bloom. Based on a true story, the script concentrates on a family's friendship with a little penguin. Shaun Grant is writing the script based on the book by Bradley Trevor Greive and Screen Australia has provided story development funding. Watts will star. Witherspoon and Papandrea are also set to produce the atmospheric thriller The Dry, which has also received Screen Australia development funding. The story concerns a guy who returns to his Victorian hometown for his best mate’s funeral and comes up against murder, lies and guilty secrets.

Taking the TV series-to-feature film route is “Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.” The series ran for three seasons on Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC, in prime time and also screened on Netflix and PBS and a large number of other countries. A fourth series was nixed, as star Essie Davis has moved to London with her husband and two children. However, crowdfunding for a feature film version has been highly successful and it looks like a feature is in the works. Davis stars as a glamorous 1920s detective investigating murders in Melbourne in the TV series, but the film will have a wider scope, with locations in Australia, London and either Morocco or Israel and will be filmed in the northern summer next year. Miss Phryne Fisher will leave Melbourne on an adventure that includes missing treasure as well as a murder or two. Tony Tilse, who directed the first TV episode and several others, will helm the film.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at