Authors

Emma Cox

Abstract

In 1945, Maori scholar Pei Te Hurinui Jones translated Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice into a classical, formal variant of te reo Maori (the Maori language). The resulting play, Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti / The Maori Merchant of Venice, was made into a film in 2001 by the Maori production company. He Taonga Films. On the basis of these unusual credentials alone, The Maori Merchant of Venice stands as an extraordinary cinematic and linguistic achievement. Employing a large all-Maori cast, it was the first Maori-language feature film ever produced, as well as the first Shakespearean film to be made in Aotearoa-New Zealand. It was directed by Don Selwyn, who developed the work out of a stage production he had directed in Auckland a decade earlier. Selwyn merged two modes of cultural representation, bringing lavish sets and costumes inspired by seventeenth-century Venice together with an array of Maori arts and cultural performances.

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