Taika Waititi is shooting The Volcano, a full-length redux of Two Cars, One Night, in March. The setting: beautiful Waihau Bay, where Taika grew up and Tama Poata/Barry Barclay’s awesome Ngati was shot. ALEXANDER BISLEY asked Taika five quick questions.

*   *   *

How do you represent the East Coast?

Te Whanau a Apanui is my Iwi. I think the fact grew up on the Coast means it is always somehow affecting the work I do. It’s the same with the city too. I guess having a city and country upbringing was a real benefit – experiencing the best and worst of both worlds has influenced my artistic and social tastes.

What do you want the audience to take away from your work?

A receipt. Actually because my films will never be huge hits I have to rely on reaching smaller niche audiences. This is fine though, as reaching anyone and changing something about their outlook is great. My films have certain qualities most mainstream audiences aren’t used to and therefore they won’t appeal to everyone. But if I can at least find a small group who get something out of them then I’m happy. I like hearing from people now and then who really identify with the characters or themes in my work. I think success should be measured by how people get the film, not how much money it makes. Film is not a financially secure medium so I’m not really in it for the money.

Your Flight of the Conchords episode on racism was sensational. How do you think race relations are in New Zealand? How are things for Maori?

I think things are getting better for Maori but New Zealand is still a racist environment. The people who get upset by that comment are usually the ones who don’t understand or recognise this racism. And it’s not just against Maori either. There is a lot of reverse racism and follow on prejudice that is projected onto smaller minority groups. It’s easy to believe it isn’t there but it is. Just look at the way the press handles news involving Polynesian and Maori.

What are our key social issues?

Well it’s different for everyone. If you want to talk about Maori social issues then we’d talk about poverty, alcoholism, Treaty issues and the Foreshore debacle. If you want to talk about Pakeha we’d talk about immigrants with cultural identity issues. If you want something that encompasses everyone then I would say environmental issues are key right now.

What are New Zealand strengths over other countries? Why make art here?

A foreigner accurately described New Zealand as “a hive of mediocrity”. I agree with this statement because I believe we celebrate the mundane. Our artists get away with a lot when it comes to non-innovative creativity. I think this is one of the main reasons people leave; there just isn’t the support to nurture the risk-taking needed in art. When people who are responsible for the funding or production of new art fail to push the boundaries or take risks then we have to settle for boring, middle of the road results.