Gay Life Clashes with Maori Culture in Kawa

Kawa is a film that despite all its noble intentions, fails to tell an honest story worthy of its interesting characters. The film was directed by Katie Wolfe and is based on a novel “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” by Witi Ihimaera, the celebrated writer of Whale Rider. The film revolves around a modern Maori man named Kawariki (Calvin Tuteao). From the outside, it appears Kawa is on course to live happily ever after: he has a secure job in a flashy corner office, a McMansion, a zippy sports car, and a loving and sexy wife with two happy kids. However, this king of the castle harbors a secret that threatens to make the whole kingdom come crashing down. The rub is: he’s gay.

Feeling boxed in by a lifetime spent repressing his homosexuality, Kawa has estranged himself without explanation to “protect his family” from the part of himself he can no longer ignore. Cue the dull backbeats of lounge music and fuzzy city streetlights that allude to his ãdirty secret,ä as we watch Kawa slip into what we refer to here in the states as the Îbaths.â In the steam room, Kawa engages in anonymous sex even though he has a thing going with a younger male lover. These scenes are veiled in implication and silhouettes, with a general feeling of uneasiness and discomfort. The title of the novel upon which the film is based refers to what a fellow closeted man calls gay saunas.

The images of cultural life come off as clich