Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith Talk Maori Story in Cousins [Exclusive Interview]

Cousins co-directed by Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith

Cousins became one of the top theatrical grossing films in New Zealand earlier this year. Although its theaters lacked the blockbuster competition, the film’s strengths relied upon New Zealand storytelling and its use of a nearly all-Maori cast.

From the award-winning Maori filmmaking duo Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, they adopted the story from the novel by famed Maori author Patricia Grace.

Here’s the synopsis of the film:

Cousins follows three Maori cousins—Mata, Missy, and Makareta—who lead separate lives, yet are bound together forever. Orphaned Mata believes she has no whanau (family) and lives out her lonely Makareta flees an arranged marriage to study law and begin the search for her missing cousin. She leaves behind cheeky yet dutiful Missy who takes on her role of kaitiaki (guardian) of the land. As the years pass and land surveyors begin to encroach, their promise to bring their stolen cousin home seems more unlikely than ever, until a chance encounter changes everything.

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The film is produced by an all-female, Maori team and features nine Maori actresses playing the three cousins across three stages of their lives. The cast includes Rachel House, Miriama Smith, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Ana Scotney, Hariata Moriarty, and Briar Grace-Smith.

LRM Online’s Gig Patta chatted with co-directors Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith. We talked about the Maori culture, book adaptation from Patricia Grace, and finding an all Maori cast for the three main cousins.

Ainsley Gardiner made her feature film directorial debut with Waru in 2017 about a small boy who dies at the hands of a caregiver that affected the community. She produced more than a dozen short and feature films, documentaries, and television dramas. She notably produced short films Two Cars, One Night, and Tamu Tu, which were written and directed by Oscar-winner Taika Waititi. Also, she collaborated with Waititi on a couple of full-length features films with Eagle vs Shark in 2005 and Boy in 2009.

Briar Grace-Smith is an award-winning director and screenwriter for stage and screen. Her first play Nga Pou Wahine earned her the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award and Purapurawhetu winning the Best New Zealand Play at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Her extensive television writing credits included The Big Chair, Taumata, Mataku, Being Eve, Paradise Café, Kaitangata Twitch, Billy, When We Go to War, and Fishskin Suit. Her directing credits included Waru and Krystal.

Cousins is currently streaming on Netflix today.

Watch the exclusive interview with Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith below. Let us know what you think.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive, Array Releasing

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