Monday, October 3, 2022
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New Zealand Actor Cliff Curtis On How His New Film Muru Responds To Real Events

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Tame Iti plays himself. He’s the guy they were going after in real life. What was behind the choice to have Tame play himself in the movie?

He’s such an iconic, unique, and special individual human being. I met him some 15 years before the events of the riots. He was a restaurateur; he was a DJ at a local radio station. He was doing dance collaborations, painting, sculptures, [and] activist-coordinated theatrical events. I was like, “Wow. Okay.” Even his own visage, his own face and the way he presents himself, the way he dresses, the hats he wears — a lot of the stuff that he’s wearing in the movie, that’s all his own. He is that theatrical in life. You try and tell me who you’re going to find to play that guy. Other than him, there was no choice.

Is Taffy, your character, based on a real person, or is he an amalgamation?

I spoke to the community officer who lived in the valley at the time of the raids and had no idea what was going on, which puts him in a very precarious situation in relationship to the people that he’s serving in his community, because he’s a lone cop, there alone, him and his wife and kids in a house in the middle of the valley. They’re going, “What’s going on?” He didn’t know. He honest to God didn’t know. He found out at 5:00 a.m. It was called in. He found out in the middle of the night, and then it happened. It’s based on the actual relationship that the police had with the police officers, [that] the institution had with that individual.

I spoke to other police officers from the region that had served in that area, too, to get a sense of how they functioned. How do you arrest a family member? How do you do that? It functions by consent, because a police officer in that community has to have the consent of the elders. That’s actually how it functions. That’s how it works. You have to have the respect and the consent of the community, of the families of that valley, in order to be able to function as a police officer — otherwise, you’d be done for.

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