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Once Were Warriors

1h 30m Drama 1994

Directed by:Lee Tamahori
Written By: Riwia Brown and Alan Duff

One of the most successful New Zealand films of all time, Once Were Warriors portrays the horrors of domestic violence in a South Auckland family.

Jake and Beth Heke appear to have a good relationship. But when alcohol is added, as it is far too often, both can become new people. Jake’s temper is terrifying, especially in its unpredictability and savagery. When Beth wakes to a face swollen beyond recognition from another beating, she says to a friend “I have to learn to keep my mouth shut”.

The kids are among the biggest victims of their volatile parents’ drinking. One has already moved out to join a gang and a second is on that path too. Their daughter, Grace, escapes into her journal and with her druggie boyfriend who lives in a junked car.

Never before has the devastating effect of alcohol on a family been so vividly evoked on film. On its release, the film provoked much discussion and outrage about the cultures of drinking and violence so inherent in New Zealand.


Rena Owen (Beth Heke) , Temuera Morrison (Jake Heke) , Julian Arahanga (Nig Heke) , Cliff Curtis (Bully) , Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell (Grace Heke)


Lee Tamahori


Robin Scholes

Director of Photography

Stuart Dryburgh

Production Designer

Michael Kane


English, Maori


New Zealand



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