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Screen Auckland - News - The Convert

Tamahori, known for his masterful storytelling and visually arresting films, chose Whatipu as a hero location for The Convert. This comes as no surprise to those familiar with the director's work, as he has a penchant for utilising New Zealand's natural wonders to enhance the narrative of his films.


The Convert tells the compelling story of cultural identity, redemption and the power of human connection, set against the backdrop of New Zealand's colonial past. The film follows the journey of a young Māori woman who finds herself torn between two worlds as she navigates the complexities of love and loyalty in a rapidly changing society.

For Tamahori, filming at Whatipu offered a unique opportunity to immerse audiences in the raw beauty of Auckland’s landscape while capturing the essence of the film's narrative.

Screen Auckland - News - The Convert

Photo credit Kirsty Griffin. Copyright - The Convert NZ Ltd. Caption - Director Lee Tamahori

The production team brought The Convert to life, working through complex environmental factors of Whatipu whilst bringing key creative talent, state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge technology to capture the breathtaking scenery in all its glory. From sweeping aerial shots of the west coast coastline to intimate close-ups, every frame is meticulously crafted to evoke a sense of awe and wonder.

But it's not just the natural beauty of this part of Auckland which captured the attention of the filmmakers; it's also the rich cultural history embedded in the land itself. The area holds significant spiritual and historical importance for local iwi, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the film's narrative.

Screen Auckland - News - The Convert

The Convert - Maianui (Antonio Te Maioha)

Tamahori explains. “We wanted to put together a crew that was representative of the story we're telling. This is something I'd done each time I've made a film here, whether it's Māhana or Once were Warriors. When Robin and I were doing [Once Were] Warriors in 1992, there were very, very few Māori technicians around so we built a crew from the ground up. Then I went away for a decade or two, came back and suddenly the whole industry is flourishing with people of all genders and race. On this project, we put together as tight a crew as we could of Māori and Pākehā practitioners across the board and I think we got the perfect mix.

I have long been fascinated by the lawless period in Aotearoa New Zealand in the period from first contact with European whalers and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. A window of perhaps 40 years from 1800 to 1840, when this nation was about to change forever... and not necessarily for the better.

Mana whenua, Te Kawerau ā Maki, worked alongside the production recognising the benefits it brings to the community while also celebrating the opportunity to showcase Auckland's natural splendour to a global audience.

It's fantastic to see our whenua being highlighted as a backdrop for such an ambitious project," says Robin Taua- Gordon of local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki. "Lee Tamahori is a visionary director, and The Convert does justice to the taonga of this place. We would also like to acknowledge Te Kohe Tukaha in the way he ensured the mana of the iwi and the whenua remained intact.

With the film’s New Zealand release, The Convert continues to build among audiences both locally and internationally. With Lee Tamahori and Robin Scholes at the helm and the breathtaking scenery of Tāmaki Makarau Auckland this promises to be a film that captures not only the imagination but also the heart and soul of New Zealand itself. 

Catch The Convert in cinemas now.


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