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NZ film case study - Matariki

Unusual RP classification

The New Zealand feature film Matariki was the only film to be assigned the classification of RP13 in 2009. The RP13 classification means that if you are 13 or older you can see the film by yourself, but if you are under 13 you have to have a parent or guardian with you. The film was given this classification because the issues in it could be challenging for younger viewers.

The plot

Directed by Michael Bennett, the film is a drama set in Auckland. It involves separate groups of people whose lives intersect following a random act of violence. The film was released in New Zealand in November 2010 and had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010. Matariki was submitted to the Classification Office on DVD and classified on 3 December 2009.

Matariki is about people whose lives are unexpectedly interwoven. The film is a moving drama set in Auckland. It uses well-known New Zealand actors and is realistic and sometimes challenging. Matariki deals with issues such as societal violence and themes such as the roles of families. The film contains drug use, issues of sexual identity, racial issues and depictions of crime. The themes are shown through the stories of different people whose lives link up after Tama, a rugby league player, attempts to rescue a man, Gunge, who is being viciously attacked.

Classification Office decision

Matariki contains violence, drug use and offensive language.

Matariki was classified 'RP13: contains violence, drug use and offensive language'. In its reasons for making the film RP13, the Classification Office stated:

The [RP13] classification acknowledges the feature's likely appeal to a broad-based audience, though only if parental guidance is available for children. Weight is given to the fact that Matariki is a piece of New Zealand cinema featuring well-known local actors, and contains positive messages about the impact of violence on people's lives and the role of the family.

Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2009

The Classification Office noted the offensive language and violence in the film meant adults should accompany younger children to the film to help them understand what was going on and why:

The pervasive use of highly offensive language and a scene of strong violence means that availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good unless it is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 13 years or who are accompanied by a parent or guardian. In this instance it is considered that parents or guardians can put the violence and offensive language into a context that younger children could understand and may benefit from.

Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2009

The difference between R13 and RP13

Matariki has an RP13 classification. This is quite different to an R13 classification. An R13 classification means that the film can only be made available to people aged 13 and over. The R13 classification means the Classification Office has decided that making the film available to anyone under that age could injure the public good by having a negative impact on them or on society. If a teacher or a parent wanted to show the film to anyone under the age of 13 and not be breaking the law, they would need to seek special permission from the Chief Censor.

The RP classification is not assigned very often. The only two RP classifications that the Classification Office uses are RP13 and RP16. An RP13 (or RP16) is usually assigned where the potential injury or harm of showing the film to someone younger than 13 (or 16) is balanced out by the positive impact of having an older person to explain and discuss issues raised in the film.

The RP classification is generally used where a film presents ideas or issues that could challenge younger viewers but might still be valuable to them, if they have support in working through the issues in the film.

Classification Office's RP13 classification decision for Matariki (PDF, 111KB)

Some other 'RP' films

  • Orphans and Kingdoms - RP16: Violence, offensive language, nudity, drug use and suicide
  • Revolutionary Road - RP16: contains violence, offensive language and sex scenes
  • Kingdom of Heaven - RP16: contains battle violence
  • The Emperor and the Assassin - RP16: contains violence
  • Duran Duran Greatest - RP13: contains nudity

Other film case studies

Film poster: Matariki achieves its modest ambitions with considerable assurance, delivering a touching series of intersecting stories about the fragility of life and the redeeming power of love

Peter Calder, New Zealand Herald

Useful links

Stills from the film

A still image from the film of Aleki wearing a hoodie standing under a street light
Jason Wu as car thief Aleki
A still image from the film of a pregnant girl - Lisa - standing in a market
Alix Bushnell as Lisa
A still image from the film of Aleki wading through waist-deep water at night
Jason Wu in a dramatic scene from Matariki


RP13 classification label
RP13: contains violence, drug use and offensive language