New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis on how his new film “Muru” reacts to real events

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

He is such an iconic, unique and special person. I met him about 15 years before the events of the riots. He was a restaurateur; he was a DJ at a local radio station. He was engaged in dancing, painting, sculpture, [and] theatrical events organized by activists. I thought, “Wow. Good”. Even his own look, his own face and how he carries himself, how he dresses, what kind of hats he wears – a lot of what he wears in the film – is all his own. He is so theatrical in life. Try it and tell me who you find to play this guy. There was no other choice but him.

Is Taffy your character based on a real person or is he a fusion?

I spoke to a local 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 dangerous situation towards the people he serves in his community because he is a lone cop, there is one, he , his wife and children in a house in the middle of the valley. They say, “What’s going on?” He did not know. He honestly didn’t know. He found out at 5 am. He was called. He found out in the middle of the night, and then it happened. This is based on real-life police-cop relationships, [that] the institution had with this man.

I spoke with other police officers from the region who also served in the area to understand how they work. How to arrest a family member? How do you do this? He acts by agreement because a policeman in this community must obtain the consent of the elders. Actually that’s how it works. Here’s how it works. You must have the respect and consent of the community, the families of this valley, in order to be able to function as a police officer or you are finished.

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