The recipient of the 2019 WIFT Mana Wahine Award is Whetu Fala.

Whetu Fala is Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Maru ki Taranaki, Samoa, Rotuma and is an entrepreneur and creative, infused with te wairua auaha, the creative spirit. She has owned Fala Media for over twenty years. Whetu has produced, directed and edited hundreds of hours of television, including drama, documentaries, reality series and short films since starting at TVNZ in 1988.


Whetu has a background in theatre as an actor. Her work includes a Young Māori in Performance season at the Sydney Opera House, and her own theatre company, He Oriori mo ngā Tamariki, toured to Storytellers International, Alburqerque, New Mexico. She has graced the screen in numerous films and television series, and is a founding member of Taki Rua Theatre, Te Manu Aute Māori in Film, Women in Film & Television Wellington, Ngā Aho Whakaari Māori Screen Guild, and Pacific Islanders in Film & Television Aōtearoa.

In 2016 Whetu was appointed to the Board of Māori Television. She also sits on the Boards of Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision and Te Puna Ataata (the New Zealand Film Heritage Trust). Most recently she has returned to her home-town of Whanganui to take on the position of Manager for Awa FM, promoting the stories and language cadence of the Whanganui River region to the world.


As an aside, she was one of the case studies in a PhD documentary, entitled ‘Emancipatory Māori entrepreneurship in screen production’ (Henry, 2012), where she said, “I would say to other Māori and Pacifica, mahia te mahi, you are what you do, not what you say you do”, and that is exactly what Whetu has been doing for over thirty years, mentoring, coaching, supporting, guiding, collaborating, creating, bursting through glass ceilings, and doing it all with a joy for life, a sharp intellect, an acerbic sense of humour, and a great love of people, which is a privilege to behold. She encapsulates everything that is Mana Wāhine.  


Written by Ella Henry

Leo Kolziol, Festival Director, Wairoa Māori Film Festival went on to add

“Whetu Fala is a tireless advocate for both Maori and Pasifika film making, and has been so for many many decades. An award to Whetu is a cause for reflection to the early days of Maori film, radio and television, as Whetu was there from the beginning (she starred in “Te Rua” by Barry Barclay back in 1991).

Whetu is of Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Maru ki Taranaki, Samoa, and Rotuma descent. An award to Whetu is a cause for celebration for both Māoridom and Pasifika communities, to in particular celebrate the unique place Whetu has had weaving her diverse communities together.”  


The Mana Wahine WIFT award will be presented at the Gala Evening of the Wairoa Film Festival by Ngā Aho Whakaari Treasurer Christina Asher and Dame Gaylene Preston.

Wairoa Film Festival 31 May to June 3rd, 2019