"When I died, I saw the whole world."

These are the first words heard in WARU and automatically my heart was captured.

WARU takes the form of eight different but connected sequences that unfold around the tangi of a young Māori boy; the boy whose whisper we heard, who died at the hands of his caregiver.

The eight stories explore the impact of Waru’s death on his family and the extended community. The interwoven stories all take place across the same ten or so minutes and each story was directed by a different female Māori filmmaker who shares their insight into the complexity of child abuse.

The filmmakers made the decision to take the film back to their community for their iwi to view before it opened in cinemas around Aotearoa. Already this gave the impression as something special right from the get-go.

So I made the commute out to Rewiti Marae in Waimauku last week for the advanced screening.

We were welcomed onto the marae. A projector was set up on a white tarpaulin at the end of the hall. The stage was set.

Before it started, parents who brought their tamariki along were warned that the movie was rated M and contained violence, offensive language, sex scenes, and content that may disturb – but, heoi anō, ‘up to you if you think it’s suitable for your tamariki’.

With that, the lights go out, the movie starts.

WARU is a powerful, beautifully devastating film. Child abuse is a heavy, but hugely important subject to approach and being made to feel uncomfortable is a good film.

I came away feeling extremely blessed that my upbringing didn't expose me to the scenes like this film, but, most of all, it made me ask myself, ‘What can I do?’

Mā te pā ka taea te whakatipu te tamaiti - It takes a village to raise a child. Addressing child abuse is our collective responsibility, and whether it’s starting a conversation, being more aware, or reaching out to offer support; we need to be the change.