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White Lies
White Lies (2013)
  • Director:
    Dana Rotberg
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Dana Rotberg,Witi Ihimaera
  • Cast:
    Whirimako Black,Rachel House,Antonia Prebble
  • Time:
    1h 39min
  • Year:
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.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Whirimako Black Whirimako Black - Paraiti
Rachel House Rachel House - Maraea
Antonia Prebble Antonia Prebble - Rebecca
Nancy Brunning Nancy Brunning - Horiana
Te Waimarie Kessell Te Waimarie Kessell - Aroha
Kohuorangi Ta Whara Kohuorangi Ta Whara - Wirepa
Elizabeth Hawthorne 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 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 Phil Peleton - Chemist

White Lies (2013)
I loved it. The dialog was clunky but the performances were mighty and made up for it. I thought the 3 leads were fantastic. I wanted to know more about them all. I've been quite taken aback at the drastically opposing opinions. It's split my friends and family although I have to say the majority have absolutely loved but a few have disliked intensely. We've had a few arguments mostly because they felt picked on as white New Zealanders. I didn't, it was just too interesting. Such polarising views says a lot about the director. I felt she presented a very strong and unforgiving view of her interpretation of our history. Design and cinematography were outstanding. Bravo.
My daughter directed me to this site after we re-read some of the reviews for this film. I have to admit we read a review in the Herald, the Listener and even heard one on the National radio (where they called 'Rachel House' 'Rachel Church'!) and we decided not to see it. We thought our regular cinema would surely close the film down given the Luke warm reviews. Yesterday we went along to our local cinema with a view to see a festival film and we noticed 'White lies' was still on. After a lot of sighing and changing of minds we decided to see it.

I am so glad we did.

What a powerful and remarkable film. I wholeheartedly accept the criticism of some of the clichéd dialogue from various reviews hence my 9 out of 10.

Whirimako Black gives a very assured performance for a newcomer though clearly she is a storyteller of some repute in the music world. Elizabeth Hawthorne gives a full bodied performance that we've come to expect from such an acting heavyweight. Like wise Nancy Brunning gives us a textured and full character that adds a well needed warmth to our lead protagonists journey. Antonia Prebble is indeed a porcelain doll as described by others. Yes, she is cold and unlikeable and the journey she goes on throughout this story that gives us real insight into the reasons behind this behaviour is executed remarkably well for such a young actress. In other words I believed her and followed her journey entirely. All of these performances were wonderful- but it is the servant Maraea that I couldn't stop thinking about- who I am still thinking about. What an intriguing story and an absolutely outstanding performance by Rachel House. For both my daughter and I and in turn all of our friends who we managed to convince to go along and see the film- it is this part of the story that we are most torn up about. "Like watching a dam about to burst" is how one of my friends described Houses performance.

I encourage you all to go and see the film yourselves. I hope the overseas critics understand the qualities of this film better than those ones here.
I had no hesitation in giving this film 10 out of 10. I thought it was extraordinary, as did everyone else in the cinema. Everyone sat respectfully and watched the credits roll and comments heard as we left the cinema were without exception complimentary. What a story - quite dark but very moving as we see the collision of two cultures. I believe White Lies has the potential to win Viewers' Choice Awards at film festivals. There was not a false note in it for me, although some may find Antonia Prebble's character quite rigid - but she needed to be. I am going to see this film again later this week, and it's not often that I do that.
This was a superb film highlighting the clash of cultures and the ramifications resulting therefrom. In this case, it is a clash between traditional Maori and English colonial cultures. What is the value of culture and what is the price of conformity?

It is a well-developed movie. The acting was very good. The characterization was rigid and predictable based upon a viewer's initial observation of the characters and their respective roles, which actually enhanced the maintenance of the secret until late in the movie. Clues are provided that almost reach the level of red-herrings, but they are real clues with multiple interpretations that become clear as the movie progresses. All is not as it originally seems.

I happened to be on an Air New Zealand flight that offered a selection of New Zealand-made films or I probably never would have had the opportunity to see this excellent film. If I had a vote, it would get my vote for best foreign film.
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.
Despite the myopic comment referring to the title being inappropriate, it couldn't be more valid to the story line. A "White Lie" is a lie that is perceived as being harmless or trivial and told to avoid hurting another persons feelings. This is exactly the theme. It is a story set in the post-colonial period of New Zealand where cultural beliefs clashed heavily against one another. It was a time where necessity often meant that people would have to give up their identities in order survive in an environment that had very little opportunity (or compassion) for the native race that had suffered the typical injustices of colonialism. Against this backdrop is the story of a mother and her daughter who are trapped in a lie - a lie that separates them from their culture, as well as from each other. It is to a very sad extent that the mother drives her daughter to an impossible way of life all for the sake of blending in and the perception of wealth and well-being.

An incident drives her mother back to her native roots to find a solution for her daughter - who is facing severe consequences, possibly fatal. From this point the mothers fears and lies are confronted.

It is a slow, quiet but very emotional tale. The three main characters portray this emotion wonderfully.

Admittedly, this may not be a tale for everyone, but it does try to convey the struggles that were undoubtedly common for this time period. And as such, the way the movie depicted a mothers love for her daughter and the extent she will go to give her what she thinks her daughter needs, suited the era it was set in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was a pleasant surprise.
I agree with the majority of these reviews. I was looking up to see what other films one of the actors on White lies had been in (Taika's film Boy, must watch it again) and well I'm kind of freaked out with the luvnotwar person. Top of the Lake and White lies are both so accomplished! What on earth? Sure, a few faults here and there for both but I wouldn't think that the acting in either deserved moaning about. Yes, Elizabeth Moss accent was weird in a few places but being a character who had traveled all over the world it is little wonder the accent strays. Have you heard Anna Paquin being herself lately? Crazy accent. Very cool. And the performance of Elizabeth Moss was brilliant. There is a style of acting my mate reckons we've become accustomed to in this country. A friend, an actor, calls it "soft whisper acting". I will not attach it to any show but it definitely seems a requirement for some local drama I've watched lately and it works perfectly well too. I loved the boldness of all the actors in Top of the Lake and White Lies. I've mostly seen Rachel House, Nancy Brunning and Elizabeth Hawthorne in theatre shows some years ago now. They were fabulous in White Lies. I heard Antonia was great in Outrageous Fortune. I've been away for a few years, didn't have time to lock in to Blue Rose on my return. Anyway, thanks for annoying me enough to become a member. Might go and score some other films now. White Lies is intense and definitely worth seeing. Still thinking about it. Take a hankie.
What makes for a successful life? What are people prepared to do to be accepted within what they perceive to be a successful life? To claim a life they think is of a better quality than what they are born to.

Being of mixed blood, what makes one more or less of which lineage?

We are taken into the lives of 3 feminine roles in Colonial NZ. One (Whirimako Black) is a childless old Crone, full blood Maori, who is unlawfully practising medicinal rites like those of a Tohunga, but in Midwifery - flouting The Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 which was intended to stop people using traditional Māori healing practices which had a spiritual element. Another, (Rachel House), middle-aged Mother ("half-caste") is living the life of a slave/servant to the third, (Antonia Prebble) the Maiden wife ("1/4 cast") an upper-class English-European wife.

In their roles, which one is suffering most? Which one has given up the wild feminine? Which one is the slave? Which one is free? Who is living a successful and happy life? These are the questions that are tackled within the film. Little love is expressed between the 3, but cloaked in silence, the love runs deep regardless and the sacrifices made are proof of the love, albeit misguided and ultimately destructive.

The cycle has come full circle since colonial days. Not belonging to either culture is often not acknowledged because we live in a world whereby we judge instantly, unconsciously, like judging a book by the cover. Once upon a time ... opposites attract. The racial divide is still running deep on our shores from all shades of brown & white, even though there are no full blooded EnglishKiwi or MaoriKiwi left among us.

An interesting topic and subject to reflect upon Colonial NZ society. Many mixed marriages were openly accepted and the life of a settler was hard no matter what colour the skin. In the case of the film though, this is not ordinary settlers we are dealing with. This is rich elite English-European society and old time Maori.

The most encompassing sentence was that of Rachel House when she spoke of not belonging to either culture.

I liked the whimsical nature of the film, the romantic white horse, the dog, the art deco elements within the homestead, the silk and fires.

I am going to find the novella by Witi Ihimaera - Medicine Woman, from Ask The Posts Of The House.

John Psathas music was lovely as usual.
This film is based on a book by Witi Ihimaera called Medicine Woman. For some reason the title was changed to White Lies. Perhaps that was an attempt to inflame racial passions and get people interested enough to go and see it. I don't know, but I find the choice of title to be in highly questionable taste.

But apart from that the best I can say for this film is it looks nice, as NZ films and television invariably does. It's not hard to make a nice looking film in NZ considering our scenery, but unfortunately it is used to hide a multitude of sins, such as a weak story and poor acting among others. The story in White Lies is interesting enough in its own way, but everything else lets it down and even the cinematography can't save it.

The dialog sounded false and artificial and very few of the actors seemed at all professional. So much so that it was difficult to concentrate on the story, such was the poor quality of almost all of the actors involved. I am all for encouraging NZ film and television but that doesn't mean we MUST only use inexperienced locals surely?

I'm sorry to hurt the feelings of anyone involved in this film. I'm sure you did your best and gave it your all, and I certainly wanted to love this film after enduring the dismal Top of the Lake, but I'm afraid I found White Lies to be just another in a long string of low quality Kiwi films. Please don't take it personally.

Once again full marks for the cinematography and scenery, but low marks for all the rest. Better luck next time everyone.
I could not stop watching this anymore than one can put a good book down. the best dialogue and story line, I found the energy medicine and the symbolism powerful, transporting me back to time and place, very moving.
Who knew that New Zealand's Maori natives suffered the same hellish treatment dished out by the English Empire around the globe. This is another chapter of Western "civilization" the elites would prefer to have kept swept under the rug. It's a sad tale of gender, racial, andethnic prejudice and abuse. The director is young and inexperienced, but tries her hardest to convey original ideas in new ways. Her bravery in tackling such a delicate subject with honesty is unique.

It's very difficult to be picky and compare techniques to Spielberg, and the Hollywood elite who had so much more to work with in their careers. I applaud this director, cast, and crew for doing a great job.

If your idea of a great film is STAR WARS, you can pass this one quietly by. But if you're a curious person who enjoys history, politics, and deeply emotional situations in foreign cultures, you'll find this quite compelling and rewarding.
Very Old Chap
Very Old Chap
An interesting look at new zealand long ago but its boring as. moves at a criminally slow pace, pathetic camera work, acting worthy of being New Zealand, bad singing, unbelievable plot. I wouldn't wish this movie on my worst enemy because its boring as aye bro. If you want to watch a good new zealand movie watch hobbit