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Loading Docs: Tihei

Wednesday 29th July 2015

Loading Docs is a launching pad for New Zealand short documentaries which has just released 10 new films. We’ll be featuring each of the films and profiling the directors behind them. 

DIRECTOR PROFILE: HAMISH BENNETT

Tihei Harawera has a way with words. Weaving meanings and style into stream of consciousness lyrics, he stands at the Otara markets once a week with a sign and a stereo, offering to rap about a topic of the passers-bys choosing.

Director Hamish Bennett (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi, Kāi Tahu), who grew up in the same town as Harawera, had been intrigued by his unique talent ever since seeing a video of his performance.

“A few years ago, a mate sent through a video of Tihei busking up at Waitangi. He’d asked Tihei to rap about Hora Hora, our local rugby club. Tihei pressed play on his backing cd and started to freestyle. I was blown away. The lyrics, the rhymes, the way he tied everything together – it was so hard to believe he’d made it all up on the spot.”

Both growing up in Whangarei, Harawera was a familiar face to Bennett, but not someone who he really knew.

“I remember seeing him a fair bit on the sidelines at club rugby games. Other than that I didn’t know a lot about him – he was a friendly but unassuming guy.”

But seeing Harawera’s skill and character-filled music for the first time made Bennett eager to collaborate on a filmmaking project with him.

When I learnt a bit more about the challenges that Tihei has faced in his life, and the values that he promotes, it further reinforced my keenness to make something with him.

“It was just unreal, trying to align what I thought of him with his ability was pretty cool. As soon as I saw that [performance] I thought, when I get the chance, I’d love to have a crack at doing something to promote him, to show him to as many people as possible,” says Bennett.

For his Loading Docs film, Bennett wanted to capture Hawawera in action, so the crew made their way down to his stage and waited to capture the perfect moment.

“It was like we were sitting there waiting for lightning to strike,” says Bennett.

Making a short film with Loading Docs gave Bennett the perfect opportunity to get to know Harawera better, and understand the man who is able to juggle words and dodge silences so proficiently.

“When I learnt a bit more about the challenges that Tihei has faced in his life, and the values that he promotes, it further reinforced my keenness to make something with him. He’s had his struggles, he’s struggled as a young fella to connect with people, he’s had learning difficulties… [but] he’s found his own unique way of connecting with people, that’s through freestyle rap.

“It’s quite an unusual way to connect with people, and it works for him, he’s found his medium.

“More than anything we’re just happy that T’s story is getting out there,” says Bennett.

Story by Elizabeth Beattie.



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