Briar Grace-Smith, A Maori screenwriter and filmmaker from New Zealand, screened her film, The Strength of Water, and gave an emotional presentation on Literary Writing and Publication at the 2010 International Austronesian Conference in Taipei. Her presentation shared how her indigenous background and upbringing helped to shape her writing career. Storytelling is an important part of Maori culture, and she continues the custom through her stories and films. Her story inspired many in the audience, who each have their own story to share with the world.
I sat down to interview Briar after her presentation inspired me to pursue my own aspirations as a writer.
Q: How did you end up speaking at this conference?
A: Nawani Keelan, a New Zealand representative in Taiwan, approached me to speak at the event.
Q: What have been your impressions of the conference so far?
A: I came with no expectations. My first impression was that the people in Taiwan were very embracing, warm and respectful. I could feel a strong connection while watching the indigenous performances. I could feel it through their laughter and joy.
Q: What is the state of New Zealand’s Maori film industry today?
A: I think it is very healthy. There didn’t used to be many films representing Maori culture, but now there is a good pool of films.
Q: What could indigenous Taiwanese filmmakers learn from the efforts in New Zealand to nurture its Maori filmmakers?
A: To always be true to the story you want to tell. Don’t let others tell you how to tell your story. Be open to collaboration.
Q: What have you come away with from this conference?
A: I’ve enjoyed growing stronger with the connections I have made here. I feel so affirmed when I see the achievements represented here. I see collaboration in the future between filmmakers in Taiwan and New Zealand.
Briar Grace-Smith spent several days in Taipei, before the conference resumed at the Fleur de Chine Resort at Sun-Moon Lake in the mountains of Central Taiwan.