Indigenous | Film

Short film Tūī inspired by filmmaker's own life

Awa Puna is a whakawahine trans actress, writer and director, who starred in, wrote and directed the award-winning short film Tūī.

The short film earned her the Emerging Talent Award at last year's New Zealand International Film Festival.

Now audiences will have the chance to see her film in Auckland on Thursday and Friday this week at Corbans Estate Arts Centre in Henderson, Auckland, as part of a special Matariki celebration of Māori films.

“It’s a short film about a young whakawahine trans woman dealing with her grief for her mother who passed, and the way she copes with that,” Puna says.

The inspiration for Tūī draws from experiences of Awa’s own life.

“The feeling of being isolated, having an identity crisis, the feelings and struggles of gender dysphoria that I went through as a teenager.

'Proud to be myself'

“I’m also interested in dreams and a sense of otherly – a world where you can be whoever you want to be, so there’s aspects of that too where we dive into Tūī’s landscape.”

During years at high school, Awa traversed through a “tricky” time in her life, even having one of her closest friends turn on her on social media.

“I went through a really dark period with drug abuse, depression, being discriminated by other people at school.

“I had no choice but to admit to myself who I was. Then I chose to wear it, walk around school and show everyone who I was. After that no one could tell me I was something else because I knew deep down I’m proud to be myself.”

Awa says it’s important to tell stories of minorities that haven’t had their voices heard.

“It enables anyone to get an insight into anyone’s life and you can completely understand why that character is the way that they are.

“People can walk into a cinema feeling one way about something and then leave with an entirely different perspective, because they understand that character’s journey and why they’ve had to do the things they have done.”