Once Were Warriors



   Our people once were warriors. But unlike you, Jake, they were people with mana, pride;

        people with spirit. If my spirit can survive living with you for eighteen years,    

                   then I can survive anything.


Beth Heke left her small town and despite the disapproval of her parents she married Jake Heke. After eighteen years they live in a slum and have five children. There are of course problems - Since Beth is from a more traditional background she related to the old ways, while Jake is an interpretation of what some Maori have become.  Jake is unemployed and spends most of the day getting drunk at the local pub with his friends. Here, he is in his element, buying drinks, singing songs and savagely beating any other patron who he considers to have stepped out of line. He often invites huge crowds of friends back from the bar to his home for wild parties. While Jake portrays himself as an easy going man out for a good time, he has a vicious temper when drinking. This is highlighted when his wife dares to 'get lippy' at one of his parties and he savagely attacks her in front of their friends.

Nig, the Hekes' eldest son, moves out to join a street gang. He cares about his siblings, but despises his father for his thoughtless brutality, a feeling returned by the elder Heke. Nig attempts to find a substitute family in the form of the gang, but this is unsuccessful as the gang members are either too brutal or too beaten down (in the case of Nig's gang girlfriend) to provide him with the love and support he craves. The second son, Mark 'Boogie' Heke, has a history of minor criminal offences, and is taken from his family and placed in a borstal. Despite his initial anger, Mark finds a new niche for himself, as the borstal manager instructs him in his Maori heritage.

Grace, the Heke's thirteen-year-old daughter, loves writing stories, as an escape from the brutality of her real life. She also spends time spying on a wealthy Pakeha family who live nearby. She is amazed at the contrast between their lives and hers - not simply the material wealth but also the lack of conflict in their lives. Grace's best friend is a drug-addicted boy named Toot who has been cast out by his parents and lives in a wrecked car. He is the one who really cares for her.

Grace is raped in her bed one night by one of Jake's friends, and subsequently hangs herself. Jake goes out to impose is own form of justice on her attacker, yet in her diary, later found by her family, Grace says she thinks it was her father who raped her; Jake, who had been too drunk to remember what happened that night, has no answer. The relationship between Jake and Beth is damaged beyond repair and the couple go their separate ways. This film is an absolute classic which is not only insightful, but brutal and harsh. Again this is certainly in my top five fav films.











Copyright(c) 2007 - 2025 All rights reserved.


watch the trailer



Movie Script

Directed by Lee Tamahori
Produced by Robin Scholes
Written by Riwia Brown,
based on the novel by
Alan Duff
Starring Rena Owen,
Temuera Morrison,
Mamengaroa Kerr-Bell
Music by Murray Grindlay
Murray McNabb
Distributed by Fine Line Features
Release date(s) 1994
Running time 99 min.
Language English





 Cult Classics Home