Ava DuVernay‘s ARRAY Releasing has acquired of North America and UKIE rights to the drama Cousins directed by award-winning Māori filmmaking duo Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, the film debuted at number one at New Zealand’s box office when it was released earlier this year. The announcement was made today by Tilane Jones, President of ARRAY.
ARRA will debut Cousins on July 2 in select U.S. theaters including Angelika Film Center (New York City), Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge (Waimalu, Hawaii) and Consolidated Theatres Ward (Honolulu, Hawaii), and July 22 on Netflix. The film had its worldwide festival premiere in March at the Māoriland Film Festival in New Zealand where it won the 2021 People’s Choice for Best Feature Drama.
“Cousins is a beautiful story exploring identity, culture and family that goes beyond borders and time,” said Jones. “Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith have crafted an impassioned adaptation of Patricia Grace’s classic novel that allows insight and understanding into the Māori culture, as well as the injustice faced by many indigenous groups. We are inspired at ARRAY to be able to work with this talented duo and bring this powerful film to audiences across the globe.”
Cousins, which amplifies representation of Indigenous communities, follows three Māori cousins — Mata, Missy and Makareta — who lead separate lives, yet are bound together forever. Orphaned Mata believes she has no whānau (family) and lives out her lonely childhood in fear and bewilderment. Back home on the land in New Zealand, driven and educated Makareta flees an arranged marriage to study law and begin the search for her missing cousin. She leaves behind cheeky yet dutiful Missy who takes on her role of kaitiaki (guardian) of the land. As the years pass and land surveyors begin to encroach, their promise to bring their stolen cousin home seems more unlikely than ever, until a chance encounter changes everything.
The film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Grace, stars Rachel House (Moana, Thor: Ragnarok), Tanea Heke (No. 2), Ana Scotney (The Breaker Upperers), Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne (Hunt fo the Wilderpeople), Hariata Moriarty (Savage), Mihi Te Rauhi Daniels, Te Raukura Gray, and Keyahne Patrick-Williams. Cousins also features co-director Grace-Smith (Waru).
Gardiner and Grace-Smith both received the Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellowship in 2019, and who each directed a segment for the critically acclaimed feature film Waru, which world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. Gardiner is well known for producing Taika Waititi’s early work including the acclaimed comedies Eagle vs. Shark and Boy as well as festival favorites including The Breaker Upperers . Cousins marks Grace-Smith’s second feature film as a director.
Cousins is produced by Georgina Conder (She Shears, The Breaker Upperers), Libby Hakaraia (The Gravedigger of Kapu) and Ainsley Gardiner under Miss Conception Films and Whenua Films with investment from The New Zealand Film Commission and Rotoma No.1 Incorporated.
The acquisition was negotiated by Gordon Bobb of Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein, and Lezcano on behalf of ARRAY, and Ainsley Gardiner and Georgina Conder on behalf of Miss Conception Films and Whenua Films.
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