Kawa offers interesting insights into the traditions and culture of the Maori peoples of New Zealand. The film follows the life of Kawariki (Calvin Tuteao), who is apparently happily married to his wife, Annabelle (Nathalie Boltt), until his father, who is the head of the tribe, announces that he’ll soon be retiring from his role. According to local tradition, this means that Kawa will have to step up to the plate and take on the extra responsibilities of tribe leader. Although he’s honoured to have the position, he knows that his secrets might catch up to him and compromise his family, as he has been actively fulfilling his true sexual desires at gay saunas for some time, and has even started a hidden relationship with Chris (Dean O’Gorman).
Struggling with the burden of telling the truth, Kawa finds out that it’s too late after his mother chances upon one of his late-night trysts with Chris. His mother ultimately banishes him from their home; when he later finally comes out to both his wife and father, it’s clearly of no avail. Chris has moved on, and Kawa still finds himself without a place in his family. His love for his children holds strong, however, and his daughter ends up being the key to bringing harmony back to the tribe.
“The film is powerful in sketching out the fine line between selfishness and sacrifice when it comes to love, family, culture, and true happiness.”
— Nicole Wong, Hyphen Magazine
“This agonies-of-coming-out drama is well handled”
— Denis Harvey, Variety
Did You Know?
The film Kawa is based on the novel Nights in the Gardens of Spain, by Witi Ihimaera. Although Witi is often considered one of the most prominent Maori writers, and does in fact write a large amount of fiction that concerns the lives of the Maori people, this particular novel actually originally cast the protagonist as a European man. Review our Gay Themed Films Here