Nova Paul (Te Uri Ro Roi and Te Parawhau/Ngāpuhi) is a filmmaker, writer, educator and indigenous rights researcher currently residing in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Her creative practice of over 20 years explores experimental film history and the medium of 16mm film. She makes kaupapa Māori films (films made by Māori for Māori) which centre around tino rangatiratanga and Māori self-determination.
In her early works and This is not Dying she uses an early film-making dyeing process known as three-colour separation. This technique creates multi-layered images and multiples of time that slip, lag and ghost each other. Time slows down, expanding both fleeting moments and her ancestors, into radiant cosmic echoes. Filmed on Paul ‘s marae in Porotī, the work documents whānau members as they go about their everyday activities; setting tables, fixing bikes, swimming in the local spring, playing cards… the work floats these everyday activities into memorable and enduring impressions with shimmering, prismatic technicolour. In this work Paul portrays her whanau, acknowledges her ancestors, untethers perceptions of life and death and firmly expands filmmaking as a medium for visual storytelling.
Her recent work Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau – Stories from the Trees (2023) is drawn from whakapapa, whakataukī and kōrero tuku iho – stories passed down from ancestors. Here again, Paul weaves the conceptual with the material, developing the film using botanical matter; leaves, bark and water collected from the environment and from the organic entities that she films. The work is made from her subject in the developing agent, and portrays her subject in the developed image. The work acknowledges the cyclical and fundamental principle in Māori culture where the land is the people and the people are the land, and so the work naturally sits as both biographical and autobiographical self-portraiture where the whenua, land and trees, ngā rakau are ancestral.
Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Otago University (1994) and a Master of Arts (First Class Honours) from Auckland University of Technology (2000) and is internationally celebrated with projects promoting inclusivity and community. Her many films have been shown around Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada. Most recently her film Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau – Stories from the Trees was selected for Sundance Film Festival 2023, and also screened simultaneously at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi and Whangārei Art Museum July – October 2023. Her work exploring time marked in our forests and environments is included in Folded Memory, curated by Su Ballard and Sophie Thorne, at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi, opening November 2023.