If it takes a village to raise a child, might it take a village to lose one?

WARU is a collection of eight short films; each ten minutes long, each told in a single shot, each with a female protagonist, and all happening at approximately the same time on the day of a Maori tangi (funeral). A ten-year-old Maroi boy was killed at the hands of his caregiver, and the entire community has been thrown for a loop. Questions of guilt, responsibility, and shame abound. Conversations of poverty and racism twitter out. Everyone is trying to cope. Many are looking to lay blame; many more are trying to stop a cycle.

The stories within WARU run the gamut from the immediate family trying to get on with the tangi, to a reporter¬†trying to call racism where she sees it. One neighbour is trying to make ends meet and perhaps sees Waru’s fate as a harbinger of her own children, meanwhile, two of Waru’s guardians go to the scene of the crime in the hopes of taking action.

The shorts within WARU were directed by Briar Grace-Smith, Ainsley Gardiner, Renae Maihi, Casey Kaa, Awanui Simich-Pene, Chelsea Cohen, Katie Wolfe, and Paula Jones – all Maori directors.

These stories are intense, deeply personal, and emotionally raw. They are the honest accounts of eight Maori women who bring so much honesty and insight to the scenes that they are impossible to imagine playing out any other way. Their camera lenses dare us to look away, and their voices ask in clear and powerful voices “Why does this continue to happen?”

When one reads about a film that is a series of eight shorts – all of which are executed in a single shot – one can’t help but wonder if gimmeckry is afoot. But WARU is anything but gimmickery. It’s many voices telling one tale – teachers, sisters, mothers, daughters, wives, nannies, neighbours, and friends expressing their grief.

The visuals don’t lean on any trickery; they are eight women creating complex¬†and carefully crafted scenes. The stories aren’t vague takes on a common theme; they are nuanced looks at the very personal ways grief is expressed by both the strong and the weak.

The whole experience is a sharp and pointed glimpse into something that is truly blurry and messy.

The death of a child affects so many in such different ways. Some will reflect on what they did, others on what they didn’t do. Some will be consumed by the past, others fearful of an uncertain future. By keeping the stories short, and weaving them all together, what we get is an intricate tapestry of the angst and ache this event has brought to one community.

WARU is an indelible cinematic experience, and an experience that will leave you wanting to hear many more stories from these eight women.