6.9/10
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12 user 9 critic

White Lies (2013)

A medicine woman - a giver of life - is asked to hide a secret which may protect one life but which will destroy another.

Director:

Dana Rotberg

Writers:

Dana Rotberg (screenplay), Witi Ihimaera (novel) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Whirimako Black Whirimako Black ... Paraiti
Rachel House ... Maraea
Antonia Prebble ... Rebecca
Nancy Brunning Nancy Brunning ... Horiana
Te Waimarie Kessell Te Waimarie Kessell ... Aroha
Kohuorangi Ta Whara Kohuorangi Ta Whara ... Wirepa
Elizabeth Hawthorne ... Hospital Matron
Te Ahurei Rakuraku Te Ahurei Rakuraku ... Young Paraiti
Tahuri o te Rangi Trainor Tait Tahuri o te Rangi Trainor Tait ... Paraiti's Grandfather
Kyle Pryor ... Soldier
Rawiri Waiariki Rawiri Waiariki ... Horiana's Grandchild
Te Whenua Te Kurapa Te Whenua Te Kurapa ... Pirimahana
Tangiroa Tawhara Tangiroa Tawhara ... Woman With Bad Leg
Vanessa Paraki Vanessa Paraki ... Limping Girl
Phil Peleton ... Chemist
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Storyline

White Lies is a story about the nature of identity: those who deny it and those who strive to protect it. Paraiti (Whirimako Black) is a medicine woman. She is the healer and midwife of her rural, tribal people - she believes in life. But new laws are in force prohibiting unlicensed healers. On a rare trip to the city, she is approached by Maraea (Rachel House), the servant of a wealthy woman, Rebecca (Antonia Prebble), who seeks her knowledge and assistance in order to hide a secret which could destroy Rebecca's position in European settler society. If the secret is uncovered a life may be lost, but hiding it may also have fatal consequences. So Paraiti, Maraea and Rebecca become players in a head on clash of beliefs, deception and ultimate salvation. Written by South Pacific Pictures

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

To save one life, two lives may be lost, and three will change forever. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

New Zealand

Language:

Maori | English

Release Date:

28 November 2013 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

The Medicine Woman See more »

Filming Locations:

Auckland, New Zealand

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,740, 6 March 2016

Gross USA:

$2,760

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$457,346
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

South Pacific Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Antonia Prebble's first nude scene. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not the best NZ film, but an important one.
8 July 2013 | by markdroulstonSee all my reviews

I was fortunate enough over the weekend to attend a screening of NZ feature White Lies followed by a revealing Q+A session with writer/director Dana Rotberg, star Antonia Prebble, composer John Psathas and novelist Witi Ihimaera. It might seem odd for a film about NZ colonial identity to be made by a Mexican filmmaker, but surprisingly the story benefits greatly by coming from an outside perspective.

Adapted from Witi Ihimaera's novella Medicine Woman, White Lies doesn't have a particularly well told story at its core, but is nonetheless an important film for NZ to have produced. Set during the early days of settlement, the film depicts a sinuous power struggle between colonial housewife Rebecca (Prebble), her housemaid Maraea (Rachel House), and Paraiti (Whirimako Black), the Maori medicine woman whose particular skills and discretion are sought.

The shifting dominance of each of these women, representing different aspects of female identity at the time, weaves a compelling and bleak narrative, but some of the story beats that should have had greater impact unfortunately fall a little flat. Elements that needed more room to breathe play out much too quickly, not allowing audiences time to digest, although the film's closing scenes are powerful. White Lies deals with uncomfortable subject matter, and Rotberg doesn't shy away from the story's most tragic aspects.

Thankfully, White Lies looks better than any NZ film for some time. The cinematography by NZ legend Alun Bollinger gives the rugged setting of the film a beautifully oppressive quality reminiscent of his work on Vincent Ward's Vigil, and has moments of rare, haunting beauty.

It's a shame that most viewers will be unable to hear Rotberg speak about her approach to the film. The director's keen understanding of the tragedy of colonialism in her homeland brings significance to White Lies that a Kiwi director may have been guarded about addressing, and hearing her thoughts on NZ colonialism and our nervous attitude about exposing our own violent past was incredibly refreshing. Her desire to treat the subject with integrity while never sugarcoating it comes across with wonderful passion, and while she remained respectful of the source material, she makes no excuses for altering Ihimaera's work to suit her own vision. Despite the film's faults, White Lies takes more risks and offers deeper perspective than most NZ films of late.


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