Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s short film on P debuts at NZ Festival


A short film about the devastation of methamphetamine addiction in Aotearoa, which will be film legend Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand’s debut film, will premiere at the Whānau Marama New Zealand International Film Festival in October.

The 13-minute short, titled Disrupt, is a finalist in the prestigious festival’s Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Short Film Competition. Disrupt delves into methamphetamine addiction told through the perspective of a kuia (grandmother) directly experiencing the tight hold that the drug exerts on her moko (grandson).

Ward-Lealand says she is delighted to be selected as a finalist for her first film as a director.

“Looking at a kaupapa such as the P epidemic through the prism of a family is to see on a personal level the complexity of the feelings experienced by all those affected. There is hardly a small town in Aotearoa that has not seen its community severely affected by the plague of P. In Disrupt, I wanted to show the personal cost of this addiction.

As one of New Zealand’s most accomplished actors, with roles in hundreds of theater, television and films, and winner of the New Zealander of the Year award in 2020, Ward-Lealand has rose to the challenge this year by being behind the camera for the first time.

“As an actor and a director, the process of the film itself was very comfortable, but it was certainly a huge learning curve to see a film during the pre and post production period.”

Written by award-winning journalist and playwright Aroha Awarau and produced by Maori television newscaster and presenter Peata Melbourne, Disrupt was filmed in April in central Auckland with a production crew made up of experienced crew members and emerging Maori screen professionals.

The bilingual film, with dialogue in Maori and English, was supported by a $ 15,000 Aho Shorts production grant from Ngā Aho Whakaari, an organization supporting Maori screen professionals. Disrupt’s creative team also raised an additional $ 20,000 from supporters on the arts crowdfunding website, Boosted, and received sponsorship from Cordis Hotels and Resorts, Image Zone, Wireless Rentals, St John Ambulance and the Nāti 4 Life organization.

Awarau has been a print and television reporter for more than a decade and says he was inspired to write Disrupt after years of covering the P epidemic and entering the homes of drug-torn families. He also saw members of his own family trying to overcome their demons and overcome their addiction.

“It is by far the most widely used drug in this country with over $ 1.4 million spent every day. I wrote Disrupt because I wanted to raise awareness of this problem that we have here in Aotearoa.

Melbourne, an emerging film producer who is also a seasoned reporter for mainstream and Maori media, says she aims to tell more cinematic stories with a unique indigenous lens.

“Disrupt is a film about redemption. It is also a film that we plan to submit to international film festivals and hope people will use it as a resource to help deal with substance abuse issues within their own families.

The cast includes award-winning actress Miriama McDowell (Head High, The Dark Horse), Joe Dekkers-Reihana (Shortland Street, Westside), Kararaina Rangihau (Waru), Ella Edward (The Changeover, The Rehearsal) and Piripi Taylor (Disney’s Moana) ).

Ngā Whanaunga finalists are competing for three awards, with films screened during NZIFF 2021 in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Hawke’s Bay, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Masterton, Welllington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin.

To view the trailer, visit:

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