By Rena Owen
I first met the infamous and brilliant filmmaker Mr. James Cameron (JC) February 2007 at a Black Tie event in Beverly Hills to “Celebrate New Zealand Filmmaking.” Mr Cameron attended this event as he was in pre-production at that time with Avatar, which he was scheduled to shoot in New Zealand.
I found Mr Cameron to be an ordinary, friendly, and open guy. He was very interested in the Maori Culture of which I am a product: born and bred. Maori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa = The Land of the Long White Cloud, later named New Zealand (NZ) by the British Empire. Maori are Polynesian commonly referred to as Pacific Islands from a similar heritage as Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, Tahitians, etc.
We chatted for a while at this event. Mr Cameron asked me about the Maori language, the relationship Maori have with the environment and Maori spiritual practices. Two years later in 2009 when I finally saw the brilliant Avatar, I then understood his immense interest in my culture. In fact many words used by the Na’vi in Avatar sounded very similar to Maori words
Aside from Avatar, he is also the director of acclaimed, box-office hits Aliens, and Titanic.
Image credit: Rena Owen
Rena Owen is a multi-talented, award-winning actress. She is one of the only 6 actors to work with leading directors in the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. She has a strong concept of family, being one of 9 children. Born in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, she also spent her childhood there riding horses, milking cows and swimming in the rivers. Her father was Maori/Welsh and her mother was European. She belonged to the Maori Tribal affiliation, Ngati Hine. Even when Rena was young, she was actively engaged in the Maori Culture Club, Community Stage Plays, and High School Musical productions. In the mid-1980s, she trained at the Actors Institute in London. After her training, she worked in various aspects of theater. Rena is best known for George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones where she played the role of Taun We. She is one of the very few to receive Dame Te Atairangikaahu, Maori Queen, Literary Award.