Maori stories have been some of New Zealand's biggest box office successes, but it's time for female Maori stories to shine, say two of the filmmakers behind the anthological drama Waru.

The movie, which opens the ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto on Wednesday, has earned praise at film festivals as well as on social media. 

"We've all have to get past the [notion that] 'Our stories have value — we know that,'" director Paula Jones told CBC News in Toronto last month, when Waru screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. 

"It's convincing the funders that they have value and that we're actually able to make them in the way we want to make them."


Waru is a feature film made up of eight, interlinked 10-minute vignettes, each written and directed by Maori women filmmakers, exploring the tangi (funeral) of a small boy (Waru) who died at the hands of his caregiver. (TIFF)

Unfurling as one continuous take in real time, Waru collects eight, interconnected 10-minute vignettes exploring the terrible death of a small boy at the hands of his caregiver. The project was created by a team of female Maori filmmakers, and each vignette centres on a female Maori performer.

"It is a universal story told in an Indigenous way," Jones said of the film's exploration of child abuse.  

"Indigenous people aren't the only ones that are going to take something away from this. These issues affect people globally."

The ImagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival, which presents the latest film, video, audio and digital media works by Indigenous creators from around the world, runs Wednesday through Sunday in Toronto.