The framing and all-natural lighting, lacking the requisite time for more nuanced set-ups, miss opportunities to clarify the story or deepen the characterizations; some actors would have profited from multiple takes. But Waru is a feat nonetheless, gaining in potency what it sometimes forsakes in polish.
It offers a rare justification of the long-take aesthetic, elevating a by-now overused technique from a gimmick into something more vital. The washed-out look of the digital cinematography heightens the sense of grief. . . . Beyond its formal ingenuity, Waru is a clarion call for Maori culture (and New Zealand as a whole) to heal itself in the face of a national crisis. In this supremely empathetic film, one small death looms large over everyone and everything.
I can imagine this slender movie (it runs less than 90 minutes) functioning as a large and generative foundation for an entire course whose scope might include: cinematic form, Māori culture, indigenous representation, feminism, and national counter-history. The experience of watching it felt absolutely monumental to me because it was working on all these levels.