Interview with Irene Cooper Executive Producer of Whina film

Irene Cooper

Interview by Tony Keepa, Kiwi Waka Ama, kaumātua (Māori elder).

TK: Kia ora Irene, thanks for sharing some of your time and we are so proud to see an ex KWA Singapore member being part of the story about an iconic New Zealander, Dame Whina Cooper who leads a groundbreaking event in NZs history and who also happens to be your grandmother.

TK: Tell us what you remember about her?

Irene: I have many fond memories of my grandmother. She would love all the family to work together on the land she enjoyed growing vegetables to feed us all. We would have lots of fun together playing outdoor games like wheelbarrow races and hide and seek. She also loved fishing and would take us to the beach to fish off the wharf.

TK: There is a very famous picture of you and her walking down a country road in the Far North that became synonymous for Dame Whina’s kaupapa, did you ever think that one photo would have such an impact?

Irene: I was 3 years old at the time the photo was taken. I was happily enjoying watching all the people singing and carrying babies in flax Kete. I have grown up knowing the photo was a representation of a great moment in history. Nanny believed our whenua is our heart which takes care of our whanau and tamariki. Our children is what shapes Aotearoa.

TK: What did it feel like being part of making a movie about the life of your grandmother and what she stood for?

Irene: The process evokes many emotions. Firstly, proud that I have been part of an amazing legacy to impart to my children. So much wisdom learnt and love felt through the movie-making process.

TK: NZ is fast becoming a globally sort after location to make movies because of our amazing scenery, great Actors and Directors of course and creative digital effect companies we have, tell us about some of the experiences your team had?

Irene: I have met amazing directors, producers, cast and crew whom are all friends to this day. We have a melting pot of talent in NZ. Most of the filming is done on location which is awesome as we have such beautiful scenery and our costume department did amazing to ensure every actor was dressed in the right era.

TK: When you and Brian lived here in Singapore, Film Producing was probably not high on your priority list, what’s the future hold for Irene Cooper in the film Industry?

 Irene: It is certainly a one off. Filming takes a lot of patience. I will stick to my non-creative career as Head of Supply Chain in business.

TK: Thanks again Irene for sharing this wonderful story about this amazing Kuia and we all look forward to being part of this one off screening in Singapore on the 1st December. I’ll sign off with this thought provoking quote from Dame Whina herself.  

“Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa”     

Nga mihi