⸻  ABOUT THE FILM

Māori tribal leader Ned Tapa takes a group of friends and family on a canoe trip down the Whanganui River in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the first river in the world recognized as a legal person.

The Whanganui River in Aotearoa/New Zealand is the first river in the world to be recognized as a legal person, as a living and indivisible being.

Māori river guardian Ned Tapa invites a First Nations Elder from Australia and his daughter, who are activists dedicated to saving their own dying river back home, on a five-day canoe trip down this sacred river. Joining them are Ned’s friends, his family, an international film crew and Ned’s dog Jimmy.

For the Māori, the Whanganui is a living being – their ancestor. This belief has been institutionalized by New Zealand law as of 2017. Granting the river legal personhood is a way of environmental protection for the river, and as a way of legally validating the Māori worldview.

The film is an invitation to experience these values: of thinking about our relationship to the world around us – to above all the natural world – as one of intergenerational care and guardianship rather than just ownership/use/extraction.

The Protagonists

Composer

Grammy award-winning composer Puoro Jerome is one of the most prolific practitioners of Taonga Pūoro Māori.

In the film, you will see him composing the film's score along the banks of the Whanganui River.

Jerome Kavanagh Poutama (Puoro Jerome) is an established producer and composer of Taonga Puoro music for film, television series and commercial campaigns both in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Internationally. Jerome and his whānau of Puoro – “Te Tini a Haa” have toured extensively all over the world, performing at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, the Sydney Opera House and the British Museum.

He was a featured solo artist and lyricist on the two-time Grammy award-winning album Calling All Dawns for his track Kia Hora te Marino recorded at Abbey Road studios, with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Over the past decade Jerome has also been sharing the “ORO ATUA” (a Māori sound journey experience) reviving the ancient indigenous practice of Taonga Puoro as rongoā (healing) providing workshops for schools and communities throughout the country and worldwide.

puorojerome.co.nz

A Four-Year Collaboration

Working with humility, respect, and friendship, the film is the result of a four-year long collaboration with the Māori community in Whanganui.

The filmmakers read about the granting of personhood rights to the Whanganui River when it was world news in 2017. The story captured their attention and they travelled to Aotearoa New Zealand, where they had the good fortune to meet river guardian and Māori community leader Ned Tapa. They made a short film together with him about the river, and the result was one of the most watched short documentaries broadcasts in the Netherlands, on NPO2Doc-Kort. The idea of personhood rights for nature clearly resonated with a big audience.

They had struck up a friendship with Ned Tapa, and he suggested they return to make a longer film together. He had also recently met a visiting young Australian artist who worked with First Nations’ Australians, and she wondered if Ned would like to invite a group of First Nations Australians advocating for the rights of their rivers in Australia to travel down the Whanganui River together. This is how the idea for the long film was born.

The film is also a call for unity and togetherness – the recognition that we are all – literally and metaphorically in the same boat. This sense is fostered by making everyone on the journey – including the film crew, and even the films’ composer – have a voice and become a character in the film.

Ned Tapa and Puoro Jerome have been deeply involved in working together with the filmmakers as cultural advisors through all stages of the production.

Credits

Out of respect for the river, the filmmakers have recognized The Whanganui River as one of the co-producers of the film.

Director and cinematographer​  Petr Lom
Producer​ ​ ​​Corinne van Egeraat
Co-producer​​ ​​ Mette Cheng Munthe-Kaas
Editor​​​​  ​Gys Zevenbergen NCE
Sound design and mix​​  Mark Glynne & Olmo van Straalen
Māori taonga puoro artist​​  Puoro Jerome
Māori music composer​​  Puoro Jerome
Sami music composer​​  Georg Buljo
Sound​​​​​  Ad Stoop & Tahuora Ohia
2nd unit camera​​​  Richard Sidey
Grading​​​​  Michiel Rummens
Image postproduction​​  Jan Jaap Kuiper
Line producer​​​​  Natasja Möhrs
Script Consultant​​​  Tamara Vuurmans

A ZINDOC production, in coproduction with the Whanganui River (Aotearoa/New Zealand), Ten Thousand Images (Norway) and KRO-NCRV/de Boeddhistische Blik (the Netherlands)

With the support of:​
The Netherlands Film Fund
The NPO Fund
​​​Norwegian Film Institute
​​​Fritt Ord

Netherlands Distributor: Cinema Delicatessen

⸻  WATCH

Cinema Release Netherlands

In cinemas nation-wide in the Netherlands from May 19th with CineDeli.  SCREENING LOCATIONS AND TIMES

Festival Screenings


Movies That Matter

The Hague

March 22nd – 31st


Millenium Docs Against Gravity

Warsaw

May 10th – 19th


in cinemas in the Netherlands

Netherlands

from May 19th

⸻  IMPACT

We believe that to really fight climate change, we need a change in values and a transformation in our relationship with nature.

Could you imagine a worldview that does not treat nature as a property under the law, but rather places it on an equal standpoint with humans? A worldview that values all life on our planet as deeply interconnected?

It is the recognition that our ecosystems – including trees, oceans, animals, mountains – have rights just as human beings have rights. Rights of Nature is about balancing what is good for human beings against what is good for other species, what is good for the planet as a world. It is the holistic recognition that all life, all ecosystems on our planet are deeply intertwined.

Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.

And we – the people – have the legal authority and responsibility to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the injured party, with its own legal standing rights, in cases alleging rights violations.

It is what Ned Tapa teaches us about thinking about our relationship to nature as one of intergenerational guardianship rather than extractive/short-term ownership. And recognizing that all life is deeply interconnected.


What we're doing

We are collaborating together with one of the world’s leading impact production companies, THINK-FILM, to use our film as a tool to mobilise policymakers to take action on the rights of nature: to influence high-level EU and international policymakers on how nature personhood can be recognized within European legal frameworks. We will keep you posted!

Visit THINK-FILM's website

What you can do

You can organize a screening and/or event around the rights of nature in your community together with us. Together with our grassroots impact partner The Embassy of the North Sea, we will be facilitating community events. In the Netherlands, please see our list of impact ambassadors that you can collaborate with to make your own tailor-made event.

Organize a ScreeningRiver Ambassadors

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⸻  THE FILMMAKERS

Values

Corinne van Egeraat & Petr Lom are driven by the need for creative storytelling in the service of movies that matter. Specializing in urgent stories that reflect their values of dedication to justice, they work from a deep place of humility and generosity seeing storytelling as form of love and friendship, an act of giving and sharing.

Their goal is ego-less filmmaking, which itself is a political act: collaboration without competition, made in the faith that cinema has a transformative power to enlarge our hearts and inspire us to embody our better selves.

This ideal of solidarity inspired them to work in Myanmar for the better part of the last ten years on several films. The most successful of which has been Myanmar Diaries, which won the prestigious Berlinale Documentary Award, along with fifteen other international prizes, a hybrid film about daily life in the aftermath of the 2022 military coup, made together with ten young anonymous Burmese filmmakers. A film entirely without credits, it best embodies their ideal of ego-less filmmaking: the international film team abstained from public credit out of solidarity with the anonymous Burmese filmmakers.

Over the last seven years, they have also expanded their focus to work on stories of climate justice: I Am The River, The River Is Me (2024), a film about New Zealand’s Whanganui River, the first river in the world recognized as a legal person. The other, The Coriolis Effect (2024) a creative documentary about our world spinning out of control, set in the islands of Cape Verde, the place where hurricanes are borne. These stories about the rights of nature and changing our relation to the natural world, are in line with their own values, as they live in Schoonschip in Amsterdam, the most sustainable community of floating houses in Europe, developed by a community of like-minded residents.

Corinne van Egeraat & Petr Lom are an internationally recognized filmmaking couple whose award-winning work has premiered at Berlin, Venice, IDFA and Sundance and has screened at over 450 festivals around the world and broadcast in more than 30 countries.

They are both members of the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences and are New Zealand Edward Hillary Fellows, an international fellowship dedicated to global impact.

Behind the Scenes