The 10-year-old Avarua School student played the lead role in the Film Raro movie ‘Dog save the Queen’, which screened to an audience of thousands at the auditorium on May 25 and 26.
The 15-minute long movie is the story of a boy named Nuka (Mariri) and his dog Cyclone. When the Queen of England begins the search for a canine heir to the royal corgi bloodline in the Cooks, Nuka learns about the sacrifices that need to be made to keep a family together.
Mariri, 10, has lived in Rarotonga for three years after moving from Mauke where he spent his first seven years. While living on Mauke, he spoke Cook Islands Maori – which is his favourite subject at school – so English is still a little foreign.
“There were lots of words (in the script) I didn’t know. It was hard saying the words – I’d never said some of them before in my life.”
Though he describes the experience as “really fun”, there were times when he got frustrated with all the words he had to learn – but the ‘Dog Save the Queen’ crew knew how to cheer him up.
“Sometimes when I got angry they took me for rides around the island. Or they’d give me a burger.”
Food was his favourite part of being a movie star, he said – something the crew from Sydney used to their advantage.
“He figured out pretty quickly that he was very important to the film,” said director Marcus Hamill. “So he started asking for food between takes.”
Hamill said Mariri was a natural in front of the camera.
“We were really lucky to find an actor who took the character and ran with it. He made it his own.”
Mariri described his canine co-star as “cheeky” and a bit of a trouble-maker.
“He’d run away, and he kept biting me,” he said.
In lieu of his favourite animal – monkeys – Mariri has two dogs of his own named Buddy and Chester.
While being involved with the Film Raro challenge involved privileges such as a week off school, Mariri’s grandmother Taputu – who he lives with and calls ‘mum’ – keeps his feet firmly on the ground with his after-school chores, such as feeding the four pigs and picking up rubbish.
The film crew from Sydney included Hamill and his brother Josh – the grip and lighting gaffer – co-writer Joel Russell, editor Toby Denneen, director of photography Lachie Milne, first assistant director Greg Cobain, sound recordist John Smetana and camera assistant Jordon Maddocks.