Once Were Warriors was originally a book by Alan Duff. If the movie depressed you do not read the book, since the movie had a happy ending to make it more palatable.

Once Were Warriors is/was a biting commentary on social and racial problems in New Zealand/Aotearoa. The only pakeha (whites) in the film are police and other mainstream authority figures whose actions have no impact on the plot. The film needs to be understood within the context of the ongoing renegotiation of race within New Zealand/Aotearoa which was ignited by the 1982 Springbok Tour. The message of the film in this context is that Maori are caught in a cycle of poverty, abuse and hopelessness must themselves fight to break free.

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