Paora Te Oti Takarangi Joseph is of Atihau-a-Papaarangi and Nga Rauru descent, from Kaiwhaiki Pa, near Whanganui, which is affiliated to Parihaka through longstanding family and political connections. He was given his Maori name, Te Oti Takarangi, in memory of the ancestor who led his people to Parihaka to support the philosophy of peace practiced there.
In 1986, his first job was as a youth worker on the streets of South Auckland, which led him train as a clinical psychologist, a profession he still works in when not making films. His path to filmmaking runs in parallel with his path to Parihaka, via Whanganui, where he lived for 10 years.
In Auckland, he worked as an actor with renowned Maori filmmaker Don Selwyn on some plays for theatre. Selwyn encouraged him to become a director and to find a story worth telling, pointing him in the direction of Parihaka at a time when other events in his life were also pointing that way. He moved to Taranaki, met Taranaki Pou Kuia Marge Raumati and Parihaka leader Te Miringa Hohaia. He worked with Hohaia on the Parihaka Peace Festival and the video archive project which grew out of the Festival. Parihaka kuia, Maata Wharehoka, knowing his passion for storytelling, invited him to go with the children and make a film.
At Parihaka, he met filmmaker Gaylene Preston who became executive producer of Tatarakihi: The Children of Parihaka. He regards Preston and Selwyn as mentors, saying, “They are both story-driven, their films always give justice to the story and the process of telling the story and the audience who is hearing the story. The late Don Selwyn and Gaylene Preston are like the toto weka a rare type of blood greenstone that if you are really lucky as a story teller you may bump into and when you do, hope that some of their commitment and sensibility rubs off.”
Joseph worked in New Plymouth for WAVES Youth Health and Development Centre, often taking troubled youth to Parihaka as part of their healing. He made the Documentary Edge Festival award winning short film Hiding Behind the Green Screen about marijuana addiction, based on one of these workshops. He also won the best up and coming director award at the same festival and the film was an official selection at the FIFO International Documentary Film Festival and the Duke City DocFest. His other film, Hikoi Wairua, was a journey with young people on the Whanganui River, made with his wife, Janine Martin.
He says his psychology work inspires his film work: “I have been listening to people’s stories for a long time in this healing profession. Film is another opportunity to heal because it can share human stories with a greater audience.”