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Year: 2020

Classification: Exempt - Ronin Recommends: PG

Runtime: 119 min

Produced In: Aotearoa/New Zealand

Directed By: Lala Rolls

Produced By: Lala Rolls

Language: English and Māori, Tahitian and French (with English subtitles)


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A first contact story, told from a Pacific point of view.

When James Cook, captain of the British ship Endeavour, took his first steps on the un-colonised shores of Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1769, he set in train a violent collision with the Māori occupants. The first meeting between Māori and Europeans would have ended disastrously for Cook and his crew, if not for Tupaia, a Polynesian who had joined the Endeavour expedition in Tahiti.

Who was Tupaia - this high-priest, star-navigator, and extraordinary artist? He is left out of European history books, yet today his imprint lives on in modern Aotearoa/New Zealand.

New Zealand-born artist Michel Tuffery (who is of Samoan/Rarotongan/Tahitian heritage) and Māori actor Kirk Torrance, with scholars and Māori tangata whenua (people of the land) alongside them, retrace the footsteps of Tupaia in true Polynesian style.

Under the gaze of their ancestors, with song, haka and humour, they make startling new discoveries that rewrite history, cementing Tupaia's role as a central figure in Pacific history.

Tupaia's Endeavour was shot in Tahiti, Aotearoa New Zealand and the UK over eight years with each shoot unveiling new revelations and with Michel, Kirk and the whole film crew embodying the story physically, spiritually and emotionally. Backed with the Endeavour journals and the historical rigour of renowned anthropologist, historian and writer, Dame Anne Salmond, and in collaboration with Prof. Paul Tapsell (of the iwi Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Raukawa), it is a project that gathered research from the ground up, allowing Indigenous knowledge to lead in the creation of a compelling work, both as a film and as an educational resource.


"There is so much that astonishes in this film, from the revelation of the navigational charts to the realisation that we have been fed an incorrect history. In a beautiful way, this is a chance to repair, restore, and reconnect to Aotearoa's real stories." - New Zealand International Film Festival.

Producer/ Director/Editor: Lala Rolls
Presenter and Artist: Michel Tuffery
Presenter and Actor: Kirk Torrance
Director of Photography: David Paul
Music Composition: Riki Gooch and Stephen Gallagher
Sound Design: Melanie Graham
Graphic Effects: John Strang/Dusk
Co-producers: Grant and Bryce Campbell, Olivier Roth with Viv Winter, Nicola Olsen,
Elaine Koller, Benjamin Picard
Executive Producers: Jan Bieringa, George Andrews, Tiwai Reedy, Lise Abraham
Key Participants: Prof. Paul Tapsell, Dame Anne Salmond, Anne Iranui McGuire,
Taha Natua Manutahi, Nick Tupara, Wayne Ngata

Funding: New Zealand Lottery - Tuia Encounters 250 Fund, New Zealand On Air, Te Māngai Paho, Māori Television Service, The Worldview Project of the Public Media Alliance UK, Te Hā 1769 Sestercetennial Trust, Office des Postes et Télécommunication Tahiti (OPT), Polynesie 1ére, Random Films, The British Council of NZ, Porirua City Council, Major Arc Trust, Girls Helping Girls Trust, University of Otago, Malcolm Thompson, Lise Abraham, Marc Baily and Nomi Bar-Even, Catherine and Gordon Howie, Annemarie Rolls.

© 2020, Island Productions Aotearoa

Reviewer comments:

"A respectful and transparent telling of the story of Tupaia's encounter with Aotearoa. Director and Producer Lala Rolls weaves this complexity together with an intuitive flow. ... she has told this story with huge aroha. There is a seamlessness to the story-telling, moving in and out of yesterday and today, which makes this all the more relevant and current". - Clare Martin, Radio 13

"Essential viewing ... you will discover some tremendous new insights" - Dan Slevin, RNZ

"Rolls' documentary is not just filling a neglected gap in history, but is making history itself." - Mark Peters, Gisborne Herald.

"Powerfully relevant at a time when Cook's impact on our country is being re-examined." - James Croot,


Short version:
FIFO Tahiti - Special Jury Prize, 2016.

Feature version:
New Zealand International Film Festival, 2020
Hawaii International Film Festival
2020; Wairoa Māori Film Festival, 2021
Montreal Independent Film Festival, 2021
Asinabka Film and Media Festival, Canada 2021

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