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'Only Couds Know'

19 December 2019

Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated Chairman Update   

It is snowing here. Very special. We are back in Beijing the second time this year for the premiere of a Chinese-NZ movie called "Only Clouds Know".  We were invited by the film production team after they found out Paraire Tomoana the composer of Pokarekare Ana was our grandfather and they informed us they had used a short excerpt of Pokarekare Ana sung by a young Chinese diva in both Māori and Mandarin. They told me that even though Pokarekare Ana was out of copyright time which I know aready, they still sought permission from family to use it and had tried several times to contact but to no avail. They even tried up the Coast with the Ngata whānau. The entire two hour movie was made in only 8 weeks.They got hold of me about October November after they'd finished the movie. I said it should be ok as long as they acknowledged Paraire in the credits as the composer and that they should visit Waipatu for a special showing for the whānau with a tribute to Paraire and nan (nanny Kuini) who the song was written for. They agreed to both. I also said I'd be in Beijing on other business in December and I'd try to coincide it with the movie launch so here we are again - 6 kaupapa in 3 days! 

But for me the use of Pokarekare Ana 103 years  after it was written is a fabulous achievement and memorial to one of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi's most modest yet  famous sons. Yet Paraire always shunned the limelight and center stage and nan (nanny Kuini) was even worse!

However the producer of the movie is one of Chinas most famous while the films stars  are also icons in the industry. Which means Pokarekare Ana will be heard viewed and loved by millions of Chinese and Asians here and around the world adding already to its illustrious list of divas who have already recorded it worldwide. When I was in Korea 3 years ago a whole school sang it to us as we cleared all the NZ graves for koiwi repatriation back here. And in the karaoke bars of Korea in one night this song was sung 5 times in Korean and once in Maori. Similarly in Japan they have widespread use of the famous waiata with variations of the story. In Korea its a sea not the Waiapu river. In Japan it's a lake. But the love story essence of trial and tribulaion,  of yearning and desire, of enduring love forever push on through all versions and "Only Cloud Knows" is no exception but again instead of the Waiapu river its "clouds".

The film itself is almost entirely shot in Aotearoa but has no Māori content except the waiata. It was supposed to be filmed in Canada but when the CEO of Huawei was arrested in Canada on the order of the Trump regime and the White House the Chinese production company decided to film it at home. The films director heard Pokarekare Ana once and was smitten by the song and has it nuanced throughout the movie. "Only Cloud Knows" premieres in Havelock North Cinema this week. 

We have already been hosted by potential Chinese investors in HB projects such as property and hotel development and they show us their Beijing assets and investments. Mind blowing wealth held by one person. They treat us to a Taiwanese smorgasbord then a Mongolian hot pot before we dodge back to the saftey of our hotel room. He and our other hosts all wear track pants and casual gears like labourers belying their economic status and this also goes for all the headline people we meet underscoring their success. Even Jackie Chan was in a grey no label tracksuit with a hoody.We then meet the films producer who like our other 2 hosts dont speak or understand a word of English as we dont in Chinese either so we communicate through sign language and a translation app. Hilarious not! But we chug our way through it around the city and we end up having great banter and fun too. And moutai!


Then we meet representatives of the China Development Bank( CDB) introduced to us by Mike Zhang of CBDNZ. They are 2 women directors of indeterminate age ( between 25 and 50?) who are bank directors of offshore investment. They tell us CDB was founded in 1994 as a wholesale bank and has an asset base now of $3 trillion US globally with $300 billion US offshore. They have $170 million invested in NZ and wish to 10fold it within 10 years they said..We talk about Iwi and Maori assets and aspirations around housing and infrastructure such as roads, ports and container terminals but our main aim is to just introduce ourselves and the Iwi Maori economy. I talk about the opportunity to build a housing factory in Hastings that can produce at least 500 homes a year- and they look at me blank as! Ah well least we tried!. But I think on reflection  there are so many layers of bureaucracy  here we not sure how many onion skins that have to be peeled back in order  to get a bite  so I dont expect too much follow up. Haaaa.. So we did that today.

Our other kaupapa here were to push for Takitimu Seafoods registration in China with the New Zealand Embassy and Chinese Customs in order to sell and process our fish directly into here as currently we have to send it via Vietnam. Secondly to get Pania Fisheries registered  for the same reasons. Fortunately after 18 months of trying  approval happened overnight on email before we left so 2 kaupapa down .


Some of the NZ production team are here Matt Noonan and his whanau as are the NZ Film Commision led by Chris Payne. Yesterday we had lunch with them, the Chinese producer as well as the 2nd leading lady a cocky Scottish lass Lydia Peckham, now a kiwi who plays a Canadian  in NZ  who befriends the main Chinese couple. Having met and hung with them over the days they all seem to be playing themselves in the movie.

We had breakfast with the NZ Ambassador here Clare Fearnley who I've met before when I was on the NZ- China Council and again when she was the NZ Ambassador to Korea. She fills us in on all the goings on here and we tell of our multi purpose visit. But unswervingly and earnestly they all want to know the origins of Pokarekare Ana and I repeat the history of Pararire and Kuinis plight back then more latterly  the messy fights  Ngatai and Rakai had to endure to ensure that Paraire Tomoana was recognised as the composer  after Air New Zealand had used the waiata for their own purposes. Without exception they tell me the original story out does any of the modern ones by an emotional mile.

Yesterday we caught up with Anna Fifield head of the Washington Post Bureau in China. She is from Havelock North and her mum Chris went to Karamu with us and drinks in the RSA. Shes an award winning journalist of international fame but couldnt resist to catchup on Christmas prezzies from her mum and news from home. 

But we have one more event before we head home and thats at the NZ Embassy where "Only Cloud Knows" will be acknowledged and honoured by ambassador Clare Fearnly and other dignitaries from throughout China.  We might even get to sing Pokarekare Ana with Jackie Chan...hush shaaaaw.....

The two stars, (Left) Ora with Lydia Peckham

The cast and director of 'Only Clouds Know'

Top : with Claire Fearnley and below with Ana Fifield-

The cast and director of 'Only Clouds Know'

New Zealand Embassy

Beijing Business hosts

Beijing Business hosts

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