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September 29, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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Rain of the Children

There are deeper, dark things in this world.

Time, and its terrible legacy upon those who have lived it, seeps from Rain of the Children through a succession of clips of a younger Vincent Ward with Nick Cave hair, artfully holding his palm over the lense, interviewing an old woman care for her son. It stares at us through old stills and new recreations of Rua Kenana’s Maungapohatu. And its curse is explained to us by living descendents of Puhi, married off thrice and bearing fourteen babes to a fiercely independent secluded sect. The older Vincent, riding his horse to Puhi’s now-abandoned cottage, solemnly informs us of the depth of his tale, and mixes his various media in an entirely humble manner.

The key, Ward tells us, is Puhi’s fourteen children, most of whom died at Maungapohatu. Their death put Puhi – the special one – out of favour with the self-styled Moses, Rua. Though her stepbrother killed her last husband for her protection, she never forgave him for the act. All that remains is his son, haunted, withdrawn Niki, whom Puhi mothered so that he wouldn’t care for himself. Ward wisely refrains from passing any sort of judgement on his subjects, but he does suggest many of the pressures put upon Puhi at Maungapohatu, where men were required to bring back money from work or be denied kai, and where women returned to work around the village as soon as each babe was produced. Rena Owen’s convincing elderly-Puhi narration digs at Rua’s control of her life.

Meanwhile, the delicate issue of mental illness, among her last son and a number of grandchildren, is linked to a curse upon Rua’s descendents. These descendents tell Ward’s camera they believe the curse came from Rua through his son Whatu to Puhi; Rua in turn believed himself a healer of the curse that killed off a third of his iwi within a few years, but that struck again as influenza after the Great War. One Tuhoe elder tells Ward when “there was sickness or death, our people needed a reason,” and deeper darker things lie behind every action we now perform. This is a world in which everything is imbued with significance: I crack open a stone and its years bore into my eyeball. Karl Marx, in a rare moment of wisdom, said that “the tradition of the dead generations hangs like a nightmare on the mind of the living.” It is this weight that lay across Puhi, pressing her to walk bent double; this nightmare, the nightmare of seeing his many dead siblings while lost in the bush one night as a teenager that afflicted the mental health of her last son Niki. But there is, at the end, the suggestion of release.

Finally, it’s odd that the two best new films I’ve seen this year – Rain of the Children and Dear Zachary – are both documentaries about a deceased friend of the director’s. Rain of the Children is less passionate, but its respectful attempt not to manipulate your emotional heartstrings allows the full breadth of its tale to unfold.

Directed by Vincent Ward

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (5)

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  1. Tui Tenari says:

    Kia ora, am i able to purchase a copy of the D.V.D. ” Rain of the Children” . I missed the cinema release and would appreciate any guidance you can provide as to where a copy may be purchased.


  2. Catherine Lamb says:

    I would like to know when Rain of Children will be released on DVD at Video stores in Nelson , pease
    Cheers Catherine

  3. Peter Manglethwaite says:

    Hey Catherine.
    I’d like to know when the rapture is coming, to my pants, pees (and carrots).

    Chairs Dr. Peter Manglethwaite

  4. Louise Arang says:

    I too would love to buy the dvd when it is released in stores nation wide…i live in Taranaki and it did not come this way…am looking forward to adding it to my collection…

    hei konei ra

  5. kunz says:

    You can purchse children of the rain at

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