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Treading the line between mourning and moaning


A Spanish guitar-inflected riff reminiscent of a high noon moment sets the tone for a karanga battle in producer Claire Varley’s short film Hangi Pants.

Director Jake Mokomoko’s beautifully shot scenes open the film with aerial images of a river at dawn and the arrival of the flash car that brings Maybelle (Tahei Simpson).

People have gathered at a marae for a tangi but when the wife of the deceased performs a karanga for an inappropriately dressed rival, the welcome spirals into high comedy. The delivery is in te reo with subtitles but actors in this short comedy are so expressive the film could work just as well as a silent movie. But then we’d miss the sound of the two aggrieved women as they try to outdo each other.

Despite the tapu setting, the feuding rivals tread the line between mourning and moaning. Maybelle and the widowed April (Annabelle Lee-Mather) are strong but flawed wahine who goad each other into embarrassing behaviour while, cast as uber-auntie Tira, Mabel Wharekawa-Burt’s understated but charismatic, on-screen presence anchors the absurdity — as do the cutaways to more naturalistic material. Among these experienced actors are Luke Patrick (Shortland Street) and natural performers Heremia Taingahue and Marcus Whitehead who in the opening scenes that set up the story, plumb the comedy in their characters.

What could be sensitive material is, in Varley and husband Mokomoko’s hands a funny, well-told, family story with a classic punchline.

Hangi Pants is part of the Saturday, October 17, Show Me Shorts programme which begins at 7pm at the Dome Cinema.

Tickets can be booked through Show Me Shorts via the shortcut https://tinyurl.com/y3bs3x7k, or from the Dome Cinema. For seat reservations email sally@domecinema.co.nz or text 027 590 2117.

THE BOYS: Heremia Taingahue (Heedz, left), Luke Patrick (Hemi) and Marcus Whitehead (Hakopa) open Claire Varley and husband Jake Mokomoko’s short comedy Hangi Pants. Picture supplied