I am looking for some feedback on an essay I did for question 3 of the 2022 paper: In a well-constructed text, the potential of ideas introduced at the start is fully realised only at the end.
It would be helpful to get an indication of what grade I am currently at, and how I can improve it to the next level (such as adding anything, or taking out unnecessary details)!
Thank you so much
In the film “Turangawaewae/ A Place to Stand” directed by Peter Burger, the director expertly structured the film to most successfully communicate and set up the key themes at the beginning of the film. These themes of consequences of war, such as PTSD on Maori people, and how they must return to their Turangawaewae to gain a holistic wellbeing again are only further crafted and fully realized and understood by the viewer at the end of the film. The short film follows a Vietnam veteran named Tiare who returned to New Zealand from war. It is by watching through a Maori lens that the viewer slowly gains a better understanding of Tiare’s identity as tangata whenua (people of the land) and how they deal with their wellbeing by the end of the film. The audience gain an insight into the idea of Turangawaewae (a place to stand) which tangata whenua needs to return to, to be able to have a stable wellbeing. The structure of the film in the intentional beginning, and ending sequence was done by the director to achieve his purpose (said in the Press Release Kit) to help the audience understand the “complexity of the idea of Turangawaewae” and gain “an increasing sense of empathy” for Tiare, who is currently “not safe, mentally, spiritually or physically”. Throughout the film, the director also induces a “huge range of feelings” in the audience who gains a deeper insight into Maori’s wellbeing, which allows us to apply this understanding into our real world, questioning the ideals within society, and understand Maori within society better.
In Te Ao Maori, (the Maori worldview), Maori have a Turangawaewae such as their ancestral marae which is a place where they can stand, and a place which will provide them with security and belonging. This will affect their mauri, which is a life force and is the source of emotions within humans. This is displayed throughout the movie, suggesting how Maori must return to their Turangawaewae to have mauri ora, meaning to have an active life force that is up and going. We can see this theme when Peter Burger used a variety of film techniques, intentionally portraying Tiare in the opening scene. Here, the film techniques of lighting and close-up camera angle combine to portray Tiare as he sits in the homeless shelter where he is currently residing. This allows the audience to recognize the numb look on Tiare’s face which has no emotions at all, suggesting that he is currently in a state of mauri moe (sleeping life force). The director also combined this with the technique of verbal irony, playing a happy soundtrack in the background with lyrics of “You’re really here at last”. There is an irony between the numb Tiare whose spirit seems to not be present in the room, contrasting the lyrics which states he is finally here. This irony engages the audience who is focused on his lack of emotions and wants to keep watching the movie. The audience is positioned to feel emotions of confusion about why he is acting this way, engaging us to continue watching the movie. The director has portrayed him to be completely disassociated and disconnected from his environment, not replying to his daughter or his granddaughter. This causes the audience to also have some feelings of annoyance about how unresponsive he is. The director had expertly opened the movie with this scene, to portray Tiare, the tangata whenua, and his lack of stability in wellbeing. This is a representation of the Maori health model called Te Whare Tapa Wha. This model is actively promoted on the New Zealand Defense Force website, defining it as “a person’s wellbeing is a function of their wellbeing across all 4 aspects, all of which are connected”, and are built on a foundation of the whenua (the land). The audience can see that while Tiare is physically fine (stable taha tinana), he is clearly disconnected mentally and spiritually, and is unable to gain a stable wellbeing. Through the director’s work, we can recognize Tiare as someone who displays Te Whare Tapa and that he does not have holistic health. We gain a deeper understanding that a person’s wellbeing is not based just on their physical health but must be a combination of the 4 aspects of wellbeing including physical, mental and emotional, spiritual and social. Overall, the director expertly used this as the beginning scene of the film to allow us to see the struggles that Tiare faces when he is away from his Turangawaewae. This engages the audience to continue watching, establishing a potential theme which sets it up for when Tiare eventually returns to his Turangawaewae at the end of the film and can gain holistic wellbeing.
Towards the end of the film, the director portrays Tiare experiencing a flashback of his time during Vietnam which shows him seeing his friends die, and portraying looks of shock on his face. This effect was enhanced to the audience through Burger’s intentional use of flashing lighting and cold color palette. This was done intentionally by the author, structurally placing this flashback scene after the opening scene. Burger had expertly denied a chronological order, and instead manipulated the structure of the film. Only way after the opening scene is when the audience recognize and understand the trauma which Tiare carries with him, portraying his emotional burden. We are finally able to understand the survivor’s guilt which Tiare has, causing him to experience flashbacks of this traumatic event. The director portrays these symptoms of PTSD within Tiare, who is currently still numb after several decades after returning from war. This is the author commenting on the consequences of war which causes PTSD within soldiers, and how this can continue to affect them for several decades of time, leading them to a constant state of mauri moe and disconnection from society. The director is also commenting on how PTSD can seem invisible to outsiders, as Tiare seems physically fine on the outside, but is actually struggling inside, reinforcing the idea that all 4 aspects of wellbeing are needed to be stable for a stable holistic wellbeing (Te Whare Tapa Wha). As the audience gains a deeper understanding of the horrifying effects of war, we can “gain an increasing sense of empathy” for Tiare, with the audience finally realizing the idea that this was from the effect of war, and years of negligence for Maori’s health, showing how the director has successfully achieved his purpose. The change in our understanding is a reflection of current day society. The audience’s past annoyance at Tiare being unresponsive, thinking of him as irrational is a reflection of the lack of understanding about PTSD within society. Many of us are quick to judge without knowing the full story, especially towards veterans who experience severe trauma due to the devastating consequences of war. The director urges the audience to recognize that PTSD is real and will continue to affect many soldiers. This is a very accurate portrayal of our own current day society. An article from RNZ highlights this, where surveys have found that 3% of our population suffer from effects of PTSD, compared to the 10% of veterans who suffer from PTSD symptoms. This shows how war, and its traumatic consequences, affect our soldiers. This can be compared to the 78% of Maori veterans who suffer from PTSD symptoms. This highlights how different the Maori experience is from a usual individual, highlighting that they have their own unique beliefs and need unique methods to achieve healing. Overall, we are asked to reflect on our own mentality, and see that we should not be so quick to judge, especially for Maori veterans who are highly affected by war. The director successfully achieved this as he did not use a chronological order, but instead chose to show the effects of war first, then showing us why Tiare has turned out this way. After the audience realizes the consequences of war on Tiare, we gain an increasing sense of empathy for him, and hope for him to be able to find holistic wellbeing again. It is through this unique structure, and the portrayal of a Maori lens to the audience, which made the text successful. The audience reflects on their own behavior and understanding of PTSD and recognizes the lack of understanding for PTSD and empathy for soldiers within society. We start to have an increasing sense of hope and wishes for Tiare to be able to find his Turangawaewae again, and gain healing. This also furthers the idea that Tiare, as a Maori person, needs to return to his Turangawaewae to be able to find healing.
Finally, the director purposefully portrayed Tiare’s return to his Turangawaewae at the end of the film. It is in this scene that Tiare stands barefooted on his ancestral marae, gaining a life force and support from Papatuanuku (Mother Earth). The director also used the film technique of dialogue where Tiare loudly said a Maori phrase which can be translated to “From where I stand, to where you stand, I pass it all over to you. Ti Hei Mauri Ora”. This is Tiare recognizing that he needs help and is ready to begin his journey to healing. He returns to his turangawaewae, (his ancestral marae) where his ancestors reside, seeking their support in this journey. He passes on his survivor’s guilt about the death of his friends at the war and returns his friend’s spirit to rest at the marae. This is a powerful scene within the film which displays his return to his ancestral land and him letting go of all the baggage seen at the beginning of the film. The usage of the phrase “Ti Hei Mauri Ora” which means the message of life also displays him as he regains his life force, gaining his mauri again after decades of being affected by PTSD. The director purposely caused Tiare to have a flashback within this scene when he heard the sound effects of the creaking gate. This is a portrayal of the effects of PTSD, which can be caused by simple everyday things to remind the person of the traumatic time, and can continue to exist after several decades, such as for Tiare. PTSD can’t be easily cured, and requires a long healing process. We can also link this scene to earlier scenes where Tiare also experiences flashbacks. However, the director intentionally structured it so that this time in the ending scene, Tiare now also has the support of his daughter. We can see the clear contrast between earlier scenes where Tiare experiences mauri moe, to know that he returned to his turangawaewae and recognize that he must go on this healing journey, and now have mauri ora. The director had intentionally placed this scene at the end of the film to fully reinforce the idea of how Maori such as Tiare need to return to their Turangawaewae to gain healing. The audience gain a deeper insight into how Tiare is physically supported by the Earth (Papatuanuku) through which he receives mauri, gains a social wellbeing through the support of those around him such as his daughter, and gain spiritual and mental and emotional support from his ancestors which reside at the ancestral marae. As the audience, we feel empathy for Tiare, and feel a sense of hope and happiness now that Tiare has gained stable wellbeing again. This was all done successfully by the director who intentionally structured the film to take us on an “emotional journey of the film”, finally ending the film where Tiare has gained “spiritual, mental, and physical security”. The audience is positioned to recognize and finally realize the idea that this text reflects our own society. We are asked to reflect on our behavior and understanding of Maoris perspective in the war, applying this to other Maori people in our world. Now that we understand how important returning to one’s Turangawaewae is to Maori, we can feel a sense of empathy and hope for them to return to their land. We know that we should not be so quick to judge, like before knowing the effects of war to cause PTSD in soldiers. This means the director had successfully taught the audience something about themselves, which they can apply into their own society and be able to be more empathetic of the tangata whenua around them.
In conclusion, the director had intentionally structured this text to successfully craft the film and portray his purpose. He had purposefully started the beginning scene with the current time, and then displayed flashbacks of the past and then ending the film with a scene during current time when Tiare returned to his Turangawaewae again. Burger successfully made sure potential of ideas established at the beginning are successfully crafted, understood and realized by the end of the film, communicating ideas of the devastating consequences of war on our soldiers (especially the 78% of Maori soldiers experiencing PTSD symptoms), representing real life statistics of many who suffer from PTSD. We also gain a deeper insight into our own mentality, many of us who can be quick to judge before knowing the full story. Through this, we are urged to reflect on society’s lack of understanding for PTSD, and our behavior. He had successfully made this text which is “universally comprehensible” and can be related to or teach themes to “people from all over the world” in accordance with his purpose, (from the Press Release Kit). This film was released in 2003 back when there was still a lack of understanding for the consequences of war, as well as tangata whenua’s need to return to their land. Since then, after Burger successfully portrayed these ideas in his text through the manipulation of structure, there have been improvements within society. We can see that the New Zealand Defence Force actively promotes Te Whare Tapa Wha on their website, as well as built a marae on their headquarters to allow their Maori personnel to return to, to find their Turangawaewae. Additionally, the New Zealand Medical Journal stated that the “Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework’’ was established in 2004 (1 year after the film’s release). This framework ensures that healthcare students within New Zealand are educated on Maori’s model of health called Te Whare Tapa Wha, as well as their unique method of healing, including their security which is based within their Turangawaewae. This shows how society is striving towards a more inclusive and understanding world, where we do not lack understanding for those suffering such as Tiare. But since many within society can still be ignorant of the needs of Maori, as well as the devastating effects of war to cause PTSD, there is still a long way for society to go. The themes that Burger displayed within this film are extremely prevalent within society, affecting many. Overall, Burger’s purposeful usage of structure successfully communicated ideas of Maori’s lens in healing, their Turangawaewae. This allows the audience to realize and gain a deeper understanding on the meaning and importance of Turangawaewae, reflecting on us and society.