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  • I don't know where to start. When I'm asked of my favorite movie ever, this is ALWAYS the first to come to mind. This is one of the finest movies I've ever seen, and I've seen too many to count.

    Once Were Warriors is, at its most stripped, about a woman named Beth and her struggle to just do what's best for her family. She is of Maori heritage, New Zealand's sort of Native Americans. Culture is a proud and powerful aspect of the movie, as Beth's strengths lie in her devotion to her family and her heritage. But that is little comfort, as her daughter is struggling to accept adulthood, her youngest son is heading towards juvenile detention, and her oldest son is fast on his way to joining a brutal gang. Worst of all, her husband Jake is a heavy drinker.

    The film excels at painting everybody in full 3 dimensions. Each of her kids are troubled, but they all have fierce love and respect for their mother. The gang is cruel to the oldest son, but at the same time embraces him. The juvenile detention center separates the youngest son from his only home, but instills in him a pride in his ancestry. And Jake himself is a beast, a man built like a tank who will destroy you with anything available should you spill his beer...but somehow he also comes across as loving Beth. Sometimes.

    The film follows Beth as she does her best to hold the family together even while the various problems tear them apart. At the center is Jake's drinking and further carelessness of his family's dissipation. While Beth's answer is to nurture and aid her children, Jake insists it's best to drink away the problems and quit being so "soft" on the kids. And we watch, through it all, as the family spirals further apart. Near the end, after seeing both happy and horrible things happen to each of the characters, we are jarred by a terrible tragedy. Beth and Jake both deal with it uniquely, as she draws once again on the tremendous power of family and human spirit, while Jake deals with it his own way. The last 15 minutes of the film keep us in suspense as we wonder whether a certain horrible injustice will be confronted, and if so, how. This scenario involves and encapsulates everyone in the family, and who they are inside.

    The last few moments of the movie made me want to jump to my feet and applaud. I won't reveal what happens, but in the last 5 minutes, every person shows so much inner strength that I glow with admiration for their actions. Especially those of Beth and her oldest son, whose interaction with Jake results in my favorite scene in the movie. But don't think you know what's going to happen based on this description -it's a complicated scenario. I felt satisfied with the conclusion on all fronts, and thought that each character showed exactly where their strength lies.

    Be forewarned that this movie is very heartbreaking. Its overall tone is one of futility, of better lives not received, of wanting the best but never quite getting it. It is very raw and intense in its portrayal of physical and domestic violence, and the easily upset may have a hard time waiting to see if it ends happily enough for their tastes. But no matter what your opinion is, it will definitely be a film that stays with you for a long, long time. My highest recommendation.
  • There are films where you can see extensive carnage and it doesn't move you. This is a film where you see a man hit his wife and it hits you in the gut like you're being hit yourself. An excellent depiction of the impact of anger and violence on the members of a poor family. In this case, they happen to be Maoris living in New Zealand. The father dominates the family because he is so powerless in the other facets of his life. He's addicted to boozing and carousing and the only way he can really express himself is with his fists. The wife fights back, but can be beaten into submission. But she's also allowed herself to be seduced by the boozy lifestyle and fears responsibility. The center of the family is the oldest daughter (13), who is really the only one who can communicate with all the other members. The boys are either lost in life or lost in their own rage. The youngest daughter is simply too small and clings to her sister. It takes a tragedy to allow some of these individuals to reach out for each other and try to re-create a form of family life. A very powerful film, not for the faint of heart.
  • One of the best films of the 1990's, a brutal, brilliant & compelling film from New Zealand. Brilliant performances from Morrison, Owen & Kerr-Bell as Gracie. Morrison as Jake is one of film's most fearsome characters, full of true anger & hate but by no means a one-dimensional character. As see the characteristics that made Beth fall in love with him in the first place, the passion, the charisma. A great script based on the novel of the same name. A must see 10/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Twenty minutes into this movie, Jake Heke hits his wife in the face. It's not a slap, but the full power of a clenched fist delivered into her jaw. She smashes backwards into a wall and collapses, cursing at him. Jake then picks her up and beats her some more, dragging her bloodied form all across the house and utterly mauling her, destroying lots of the furniture, trashing the living room and breaking glass over the poor woman's frail body. Their friends quickly scatter and retreat out the front, while upstairs the children huddle together in tears, 13 year old Grace Heke more than likely thinking of her earlier remark that "people show their true feelings while drunk." In terms of grabbing the viewer's attention, this entire sequence has more effect than being punched in the gut.

    Set in an un-named New Zealand city, Once Were Warriors tells the story of the Heke family. Jake (Temeura Morrison) is a handsome, muscular powerhouse who exudes natural charisma, while his wife Beth (Rena Owen) is descended from a Maori tribe. And while on the surface Jake seems like a loving father and husband, he is a man racked with paranoia and insecurity who is prone to terrifying outbursts of violence, to which he rarely shows any regret. And his behaviour is having an adverse effect on the rest of the family to say the least.

    With one son taken away and sent to a Maori reform school and another joining a violent street gang, Beth struggles to keep her family together and the end result is very grim, but nothing less than satisfying. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to turn away from the screen as you get sucked into the characters lives, despite the rather depressing nature of the subject matter.

    For while Jake is an absolute monster of a human being, he is still very clearly human. Temeura Morrison's performance is nothing short of exemplary, as he manages to turn Jake into a highly complex character. One moment he seems like the perfect friend, singing a duet alongside Beth at a party with smiles plastered across their faces, the next he is pounding his fist into her face with such ferocity it is almost like he has been replaced with somebody else. It is testament to Morrison's acting skills that while everyone is urging Beth to leave with the children, we can see why she doesn't.

    This is a dark film and not especially pleasant viewing. However, it is also a riveting experience and far from a portrait of one man's self-destruction, as the rest of the family also have their own characters fleshed out and fully realised. One brief review like this cannot adequately portray what a terrific film this is, highly recommended.
  • This movie is based on a modern day New Zealand family, dealing with near poverty and violence from all sides, including the often inebriated father.

    The acting in this movie was just plain amazing. I was hooked from beginning to end, entranced with the wide range of feelings and emotions the movie evoked in me.

    You will cry, laugh, sing, and rage right along with the characters, and you will find it hard not to restart the movie just to watch it again.

    This is just one of the few movies that stayed with me all these years, since first seeing it back in 1995. I will never forget this movie, and if you watch it, I can guarantee that neither will you.
  • I've been reading the comments that people have made on this brilliant piece of film making that makes me proud to be a kiwi. Although I'm not Maori, I have somewhat of an understanding of, and a very deep appreciation for Maori culture. It is after all a major contributor to the uniqueness of New Zealand, and it's what a lot of the tourists come here to see/experience.

    Some people have commented that the character of Beth is "descended from Maori royalty" and that the character of Jake is "descended from slaves". That's not quite correct. Although there is a Maori monarch; (Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the current Maori queen lives at the Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, her official residence.) the Maori monarchy only goes back to the 19th century, and its not really representative of all Maori as it only really affects Waikato iwi/hapu, (tribe/sub tribe) It is more likely that Beth would be descended from chiefly linage, and hence she and her whanau, (extended family) would be very much aware of and in tune with their whakapapa or ancestry. Beth's line near the end of the movie that her people "once were warriors" is an indicator of this.

    (The facial and body tattoos, or Moko that one sometimes sees Maori wearing are in fact representative of their whakapapa. Also, the carvings that feature on Marae and other carved Maori buildings/gates etc are representative of tribal ancestors, much like Indian Totem poles.)

    Jake on the other hand is obviously urbanized. He would most probably know little or nothing about his whakapapa, and in addition he probably would not even be able to identify with an iwi or hapu. This would explain why he makes several references to "Maori bulls***". He is disenfranchised from his culture, and probably doesn't even speak Maori that well. (Although Temurera Morrison himself speaks fluent Maori.) His family have obviously been living in Auckland for so long, and there has been such tribal intermingling, that he doesn't know whether he's Arthur or Martha. And what's more, he doesn't care either.

    (For those of you who are interested, the motorway shown at the start of the movie is the Southern Motorway which runs right through South Auckland, which is where *a lot* of Maoris and Pacific Islanders live.)

    As other people have said, this kind of thing is sadly not unique to Maori, as American/Canadian Indians and Australian Aborigines can testify. Likewise domestic violence itself is not only limited to minority ethnic groups.

    This is easily one of the best movies that I have ever seen. So if you haven't had the privilege of seeing it yet, then I highly recommend that you do so. George Henare's stirring Taiaha scene alone is well worth the cost of getting the movie out.

    (A Taiaha is a Maori spear. To use one of these, one must have immense mana, or importance. As Henare's character said, the British *feared* the highly skilled Taiaha warriors.)
  • TasTigger5 December 2003
    This is one of the most powerful and realistic movies I have ever seen.

    A true modern-day tragedy, this movie shows the negative aspects of one indigenous culture in today's society. This is a very important movie as it forces you to look at issues that some have to live with on a daily basis.

    This movie literally left me feeling sick in the stomach. Particularly with the knowledge that there are families out there living through this. The performance by Temuera Morrison was incredible.
  • Films_Rule18 November 2003
    This movie is almost 10 years old and I just saw it tonight and I was left emotionally drained. This movie is one of the best I have ever seen the acting was first rate and the emotions left me drained I would recommend this to anyone but beware or it's stark reality. This is a wonderfully directed and acted film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Once Were Warriors follows the experiences of a Maori family living in poverty in New Zealand. Jake Heke is an abusive husband who regularly gets drunk and hits his wife, Beth, whistle at the same time it is still apparent that he does need his wife and children. Beth is the long suffering abused wife who tries to see the good in Jake even though she knows what he does is wrong. Nig is about to join a violent gang whistle boogie is always getting in trouble with the police and is close to being sent to a children's home. Finally Grace is the one person who has not been affected by Jakes violence, however, Grace suffers an excruciatingly painful ordeal that will change her and her family forever.

    Lee Tamahori directed Once Were Warriors in 1994, a time in which women were beginning to disperse the male-dominated society. The issue of domestic abuse is candidly approached without portraying Beth as a stereotypically abused wife. Lee Tamahori also expertly manages to ensure that Jake is not viewed as another stereotypical, immoral abusive husband.

    The film also deals with social and economical circumstances within a working class Maori culture in New Zealand. Although they are both of Maori descent, Jake and Beth had very different backgrounds. Jake was a working class man with no real expectations and Beth was a Maori tribal princess. The viewer is reminded of their differences at many points during the film so we can see how different they are.

    Once Were Warriors is crammed full of effective cinematic devices that allow the viewer to really enjoy the film. The audience is treated to an abundance of different camera angles to reflect the different attitudes and values presented in the film. Lee Tamahori also uses different kinds of music to reflect the emotions of the characters, E.G when Jake is getting angry, we hear a low humming sound and when the whole family is together and happy, a happy and uplifting song is played.

    Lee Tamahori has created a groundbreaking masterpiece that has the power to amaze and shock audiences time and time again. However, the real credit must go to the two main actors, Rena Owen and Temeura Morrison. Rena Owen plays Beth with such a convincing performance that the audience actually believes her as Beth and not just a patronising, naïve actor. Temeura Morrison portrays Jake as a complex character that has many other issues and problems besides the drinking and getting angry. Unlike many other actors, Temeura Morrison does not play Jake as a stereotypical abusive husband, which is part of the reason why Once Were Warriors is so powerful and effective. The chemistry between Rena Owen And Temeura Morrison is so compelling, that together, with the amazing screenplay by Alan Duff and direction of Lee Tamahori, successfully render Once Were Warriors one of the most potent and shocking films of the 1990's
  • =G=18 September 2003
    "Once Were Warriors" tells of one woman's struggle to free herself and her family from the fist of abuse, the grip of oppression, and the slow assassination of self esteem at the hands of an alcoholic husband. This film's story of a Maori (indigenous New Zealanders) underclass family shows the male turning to violence and self destruction to vent frustration with his plight while the female draws strength from her cultural heritage in an attempt to save her children and restore their dignity. Gripping, intense, and powerful, "Once Were Warriors" is a critically acclaimed must see for anyone into serious human drama. (A)
  • OWW is a truly great film. However I feel that people have missed one of the main ideas of the film. That is the fact domestic violence is truly horrifying. And it doesn't just happen in Maori families, it happens all over the world! I am Maori myself and first saw this film at the theatres with a mostly Maori audience. It was very well recieved. I was surprised to read the commentary by Glamwog when she said all of her Maori friends hate it. Oh and by the way not all Maori are as depicted in the movie!

    If you haven't seen this film, do yourself a favour...watch it.
  • I wasn't going to watch this movie when it came on but I couldn't turn the channel. This is a movie that makes you feel like you are there in the middle of it. If you have ever been in a relationship that is so violent like this one, you will relive it to the point of near panic when you know that moment that Jake will blow up.

    This is absolutely one of the best films I've ever seen. This is the first time I have ever written down who the actors were so that I could check them out and see what else they were in. The group that Nig was in were the most frightening men I have ever seen. They make Hells Angels look pretty meek & mild.

    I felt for the New Zealand natives. This film showed their pride and that the Warrior Spirit is not dead. And unfortunately shows the prejudices that still plague our world and morph into hatred and anger.

    I was so impressed with the actors and didn't once think of them as acting. There were wonderful things happening and there were tragic things happening. The children's pain was real,the fathers rage was electric. My emotions were so raw that I found myself holding my breath in fear they would know I was watching!

    Every once in awhile a great movie rolls along, and as usual, it rolls in quietly and unassuming and hits you like a lightening bolt! This is that one movie for me. Everyone should see this film!!!!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For a movie watched in Year Twelve English, Once Were Warriors, directed by Lee Tamahori, was surprisingly moving. With a top notch cast including Temuera Morrison and Cliff Curtis, the acting is fantastic and goes hand in hand with the tightly scripted pace, which led to an thought-provoking one hundred and two minutes of film.

    Once Were Warriors tells a story familiar to many New Zealand families. Set in 1994, against the backdrop of Otara, Auckland, it tells the story of Beth and Jake Heke. Jake is an all round under achiever with a nasty temper and a fondness of beer. He likes to be the king of his state-house castle and his local pub, The Royal. Beth is the strong willed runaway who married Jake against her tribe's wishes. She loves Jake enough to forget the price he is having on her family - Nig, Boogie, Grace, Polly and Huata. Nig is the oldest boy, and hates his father for abusing Beth; his hate leads him to join the TOA gang. Boogie is also getting into trouble and Grace has turned to writing as an escape from her lout of a father. This story forces Beth to confront her husband's violence, and decide which is more important; his "needs" or her family.

    The performances in this movie were superb. Temuera Morrison is excellent as Jake Heke. He is convincing as both the "lovable chap", when he and Beth sing 'The Nature of Love', and a frightening monster, when he beats Beth. In the final scene, he is incredible! Despite his violent words (he uses one expletive 17 times in less than 30 seconds), Morrison manages to display a kind of brokenness, that made me feel pity for him despite his previous actions, which most viewers would agree were appalling. Rena Owens was also extraordinary as the vibrant and resilient Beth Heke. She is totally believable. She is Beth. Her acting is incredibly varied. Owens shows Beth's vulnerability. After Jake's beating, she is weak and injured which is a total contrast to the last scene where she is strong even the face of Jake's fury, coming back with "Our people once were warriors. But unlike you, Jake, they were people with mana, pride; people with spirit. If my spirit can survive living with you for eighteen years, then I can survive anything". The performances of Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell (Grace), Shannon Williams (Toot) and Sonny Arahanga (Nig) were also exceptionally moving. Basically, there were very few performances in this movie unworthy of a standing ovation.

    Another really positive aspect of Once Were Warriors was the setting. Tamahori's aim was to produce a tough, gritty, urban-based drama, which showed the destructiveness of urban life-style. You don't get much more urban in New Zealand than Otara. The film has amazing contrasts in it with setting. As a New Zealand movie, you expect beautiful mountains, hills, lakes, the clean and the green, and the beautiful first shot sets the scene for such things. When you see it's just a billboard and that the closest the Hekes have to that ideal is the dead-looking tree in their backyard, it reinforces that idea of the country as a nurturing place. Even the lighting and colors of the places help with this. Otara is dark, shabby, and gray. There's no color in their home or in their lives. The Marae, set in the country, by a beautiful lake, is bathed in golden light, symbolic of the joy and color within them at this time.

    There was a lot of good stuff about this movie but it also had its down points. There was a lot of violence which is important to the story, but was a little too graphic and hard to watch for some of the people in my class. It also tends to present the view that all Maori people are constantly drunk and swearing; that none have jobs or cars; and that all they do is drink, have parties and beat and rape people. The only ones that don't live on Maraes. This movie deals with the huge international issue of domestic violence, and although the Heke family is Maori, these are issues which affect all races and societies. It also shows the power and beauty of the Maori culture, and makes you understand that Jake is not the ideal role- model for any society.

    This movie IS good, but don't be under the impression it's a "feel good" favorite that you'd like to gather your family around for a light evening of entertainment. This movie is basically a tell-all on domestic violence. It shows violence as the ugly thing it is. Once Were Warriors is not for fun, this is a drama that really makes you think, discuss, confront and actually do something about problems in your society. It is a worthwhile watch, if you can approach the film with an open mind.
  • LoneHamo27 October 2000
    As a Pacific Islander (Samoan), I could relate to the characters in this film, especially the father Jake The Muss. As a warrior people, Islander life is hard, and it comes with the damage that was introduced to our people from European intervention back when Island people first had contact with the expeditious Europeans.

    The Pacific Island people of Maori, Tonga, Hawaii, Fiji, Tokelau, Easter Island, Tahiti, and Samoa to name a few, have all felt the results of European and American intervention. This film epitomizes the lifestyle of people who were once chiefs, warriors, and royalty, and the results of the alcohol and western ways that produced characters like Jake and many Islanders like him.

    Our people were a race of proud warriors, and this film is powerful in it's depiction of a family torn apart due to the effect of substance abuse on the warrior and his family. It is sad, but I can relate because I was that way with my first wife. I drank, and confided in the comfort of my Samoan brothers placing them first before my family. I beat my wife constantly and with little or no provocation, and was able to hold a reputation as a gang elder and fighter within my hood in Los Angeles, CA. This ripped my family apart, as the Heke family in the story. The guilt of my past life appeared before me when I saw the film, and even now I cringe from the life I lead 12 years ago.

    The depiction of Maori lifestyle is on point, as a large number of my people live in those conditions. Among Samoans, there are more of us on mainland USA than back home. Many Samoans (like the Maori's in the film)live in urban areas, infected with substance abuse, and gangs. Violence is an everyday thing, and the movie depicted all of these points. NOT FAR FROM FACT.
  • This is a film that should be seen by everyone. A powerful movie that will stir almost every emotion you can think of, and sometimes all at once. Completely believable and compelling film that will hold you till the very end, and a long time after.
  • As a young Maori male here in NZ, i'm still not sure about this movie... it is everything people on this board have said it is... but having bought it and watched again recently, i'm still unsure as too how i feel as a Maori.

    I saw this movie at the auckland premiere... actually, let me start ealier then that. Where i grew up i was one of very few Maori in the area... i remember being 7 years old in primary school when i noticed there were only two other "brown" kids in the whole school (and one of them was my brother)... so all my friends we're pakeha (white.european)

    having said that... i was always raised as a maori, complete with language, history, culture and i sense of where i belong in the world... not society, but the world (i belong anywhere i choose in society, but i'm such i small piece of the world... a valuable piece)

    anyway... i went to opening night with a group of people who's contact with Maori was what they saw on the news or what they read in the paper (most of it negative)... they had little idea of the fact the fact that i am very proud to be a maori and that being Maori is a large part of who i am... they left the movie with a new view on Maori life... they tried to be so understanding, and so supportive of what Maori people must go thru... it made me sick

    i remember being mad when i watched this movie... for the simple reason that the movie only portrayed two types of maori. neither of them in a particularly positive light. It annoyed me, because i knew that this movie wouldn't do anything to dispel the stereotype surrounding modern maori. especially the urban Maori... sure the movie portrayed a very small part of the Maori community accurately... but it is such a small part of that community. This is a stereotype that young maori men have been trying to shake for years, and now it is being put in the spotlight in a movie that was sure to be seen worldwide.

    I was willing to forgive and forget with this movie and move and appreciate it for what it is... a great movie but after reading posts on this board and others... i'm not sure... i will put this movie high on a shell somewhere... i might look at it from time to time, but i don't think i'll watch again for a while. i see people are still confused about the Maori people... and this film isn't helping.

    i would be happier if the emphasis on the "Maori" aspect of the movie wasn't so prevalent. as posted here... this could be anywhere, anyone, anytime... please don't think you know Maori issues because you have see a movie about a small minority... we fight a battle of racism, stereotype and discrimination every day... and when maori life is highlighted like this in media or a brown face does something wrong on the news we lose a small amount of ground in that fight.

    this is a people problem... not a maori people problem maybe we Once Were Warriors... but we are still proud, beautiful and full of mana... actually, i'm still a warrior, the battle has changed.

    i think of that night at the movies and am glad i never see those people... the discussing they had on way home still amazes me... " i know a maori, and it's just like that... he comes to school bleeding all the time and he never has any lunch"

    no... you don't know a Maori... and he's sitting right next to you.
  • When I attended the Telluride Film Festival in 1994, I picked 6 films on opening day as my choices. Once Were Warriors happened to be the first. By the end of the film, I was utterly stunned. I wanted to tell Rena Owen, the female star, how much I appreciated her brilliant work and the film itself, so I joined the line. By the time I got to the front, I couldn't think of a single word to say to her, instead standing there with tears streaming down my face. Rena stepped forward and put her arms around me and just let me cry. After a few moments, I thanked her and walked away, unable to speak any further.

    I spent the rest of the day wandering around just looking at people. I never saw the other five films. To say that OWW is a stunning film is just words. It's ability to connect with the audience and draw us in was simply magnificent.

    I rate this film in the top five I've seen all my life.

    I found it interesting, too, that when I checked Amazon to see if it were still available, the only copies were listed at $130, a real tribute to this brilliant film accomplishment.
  • Ironmas7830 December 2004
    The Lord of the Rings trilogy for a part was filmed in New Zealand and made us aware of how beautiful this country is. The brilliant movie Once Were Warriors gives us an insight of some of the inhabitants, and it ain't pretty. Maori Jake Heke, a proud man, has some trouble controlling his temper and regularly beats his wife, Beth. Beth desperately tries to keep her family together but is not always successful. She wants her children to escape from the life she is leading and supports them in every way but unfortunately she is not able to keep them from influences on the street, and even in her family... This is one of those movies that slowly reaches to a boiling point, and then there is no way back. Great acting by Temuera Morrisson and Rena Owen, they portray very real characters. This movie never wants to be sensational, but still manages to get us upset...TRULY A MUST SEE!
  • If anybody asked me to name the ten best films I know I would probably give different answers at different times. However, if I had to name the one film that made the greatest impression on me I would never hesitate to name this one.

    There are films so brilliantly made you cannot help but love them (Kieslowskis "Blue"), others are funny ("Living in Oblivion"), modern ("Matrix") or any of a thousand different qualities. "Once Were Warriors" has excellent acting, directing, cast and so on, but what truly makes it great is the raw emotion it manages to express. I remember sitting in my chair shaking with fury (anger simply does not describe the emotion) over the injustice of the scene were Grace fetches a glass of water, I almost cried over the scene with the tree and the rope and had difficulty remaining seated to what followed the notebook being glued together.

    I live in antipode of the set, in a completely different situation and society but the story still touches me deeply. I recommend different films to different people, with this one exeption. This is a film I think everybody should watch and consider.
  • A gut punch of a film. One of the best dramas and brutally honest. This film is sadly just as relevant now as it was then. The acting and the script are amazing - this film will stay with you for a long time. Beautiful. 9 stars out of 10

    In case you're interested in more underrated masterpieces, here's some of my favorites:

    imdb.com/list/ls070242495
  • I picked this film up for my girlfriend who had mentioned that she saw it a few years ago and really liked it. I didn't really think much of it until I sat and watched it - and I'm really glad I did. ONCE WERE WARRIORS is an EXTREMELY powerful and moving film about a poor New Zealand Maori family who is being torn apart by alcoholism, abuse, and the surroundings/environment that they live in.

    Jake (the father) is a heavy-drinking, working-class, tough-guy - who spends more time at the bar with his mates than at home with his family. When he is home, he is usually either passed out drunk or has all his mates over to party and basically tear sh!t up. Jake also has a violent temper and doesn't mind knockin' the ol' lady around when he's fired up...

    Beth is a loving but emotionally-damaged mother and wife whose own demons get the best of her and keep her from doing what's right for her family. She is also into the sauce and has long since lost control of her family and her own life...

    Nig (the oldest son) has just joined a violent gang and has not time nor interest in his family...

    Grace (the oldest daughter) is a sweet and creative girl with aspirations of being a writer, but her surroundings and constant negative environment make any sort of hope for a better life nearly impossible...

    The youngest son, Mark (aka Boogie) is in with the wrong crowd and constantly gets into petty trouble, to the point that he gets sent away and becomes a ward of the state...

    There are two younger children as well, but we only see them in passing and they don't play any huge roles in the film.

    ONCE WERE WARRIORS centers around this extremely dysfunctional family - and Beth's weak attempts to hold them together despite all the negative influences that constantly surround all of them, and that they allow to remain in their lives. Jake and his drinking, partying, and uncaring attitude towards his wife and family make it impossible for them to dig themselves out of their pitiful situations, and lead to some truly heart-wrenching and sickening consequences - and Beth's lack of protest and refusal to leave this bad situation only makes matters worse - leaving the children stuck in the middle.

    OWW is a powerful and emotional film that is very realistic in it's depiction of poverty, abuse, addiction, and hopelessness. But this film is not nihilistic or mean-spirited. At the heart of it is a story of hope against all odds, and in this sense is inspiring. OWW is in many ways hauntingly beautiful and strangely funny. Jake for example is as big a dick as they come - but he can also be amusingly charming and witty - when he's not drinking. Although the subject matter is completely different, OWW reminds me of the Brazian films, CARANDIRU and CITY OF GOD (2 other excellent films...) in terms of it's stark and honest portrayal of poverty and it's effects on people. Definitely one of the emotionally strongest films I've seen in quite a while. Highly Recommended - 10/10
  • Once Were Warriors (1994) is a movie from New Zealand, directed by Lee Tamahori.

    I have no expertise about the race situation in New Zealand. Based on what's shown in the movie, the non-Europeans in New Zealand are in the same marginalized situation as Native Americans in the U.S.

    Not only that, but there is a division within the non-European community between those that participate fully in the Maori culture, and those that exhibit only passing reference to that culture.

    In the latter group is Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison). The main pastimes of Jake and his friends are drinking beer and fighting. As it happens, Jake excels at fighting, so he seeks out opportunities to hit people. These people include other men in bars, but also his wife.

    Rena Owen portrays Beth Heke, who is married to Jake and mother of his five children. Both of the adolescent boys have strayed from the right path. The teenaged daughter, Grace is the child who is loving and caring. (Grace is portrayed by the excellent actor Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell,)

    This movie is hard to watch because of the many fight scenes, and the social and personal problems that are everywhere. There's a nod to Maori pride, but I found it too little and too late.

    On the other hand, the film was made by a director with a skilled eye and a sure hand. It's a great movie, but not an easy one.

    We saw the film on VHS. It's available on DVD and streaming. It worked well on the small screen. Once were Warriors has a high IMDb rating of 7.9. I think it's even better than that.
  • Ask me to name a favorite movie and this one is in my top 10 if not my number #1. Can't watch it enough. Brutal. Powerful and Emotional!
  • This film blew me away. The acting was absolutely perfect; each character seemed so real, that at times it was easy to get very caught up in the story.

    The story, though painful, is very moving. I don't think I've ever watched another movie that has made me cry so much. But is this bad? Not at all. If you plan on watching this, be careful: it can be triggering, and I'd recommend not watching it all in one night (I watched it in two). It can be very draining. I felt quite sad after I watched it.

    Not many people have mentioned the great music. The guitar throughout the movie is very nice, suits the film well.

    Highly recommended!
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