Curated by Whai Ngata
Former TVNZ Head of Māori Programming and veteran broadcaster (Koha, Waka Huia, Marae) Whai Ngata curated an inaugural selection of iconic Māori TV, film and music video for Matariki 2009. Each Matariki the celebration of te ao Māori on screen is strengthened with recent site additions: from Howie, to Hotere and haka; from protests to Poi-E, from Tāne to making Boy.
With a stellar cast, (Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita and Billy T James ... as a Marxist), The Protesters explores issues surrounding race and land ownership in NZ in the (then-recent) aftermath of the Springbok Tour and occupation of Bastion Point. The pioneering teleplay was written by Rowley Habib.
A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven on by their brutal chief. A water-boy crouched in the bow risks a bold act of compassion towards the trophy prisoner. Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival.
Ngāti Porou leader, land reformer, politician and scholar Sir Apirana Ngata (1874-1950) is celebrated in this episode of a series about leading Māori figures. The first Māori university graduate, Ngata was an MP, Māori culture advocate, and a firm believer that Māori had to live alongside Pākehā.
Wi Kuki Kaa stars in this award-winning music video for Trinity Root’s beloved celebration of whānau. Director Chris Graham’s concept is simple but impactful: Kaa seated on a veranda as family activities take place around him, with a close up on Kaa's eye slowly zooming in and out of memories.
Rather than opting for a nightclub, Auckland reggae band Herbs chose troubled East Coast town Ruatoria as the venue for a 1987 album release. Lee Tamahori's classic mini-doco captures an emotional experience for band and locals as they meet at Mangahanea marae: unity, sensitivity and smiles abound.
The Wall meets wairua in this trippy animation that follows the spirit of a person killed in a motorway car accident. The life force (wairua) journeys to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) to the gnarly pohutukawa and the leap towards Hawaiki-Nui. The cult short is directed by Joe Wylie.
Rangatira ('chief') was a five-part doco series that profiled the lives and achievements of five Māori leaders. This edition looks at academic and future Māori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples, a key figure of the Māori cultural renaissance — from his cherished taiaha to relaxing by ten pin bowling.
This teledrama explores the tensions surrounding an elderly woman's tangi. Alienation of urban Māori — particularly son Paul (Jim Moriarty) — from iwi roots, is at its heart. A pioneering exploration of Māori themes, the Rowley Habib teleplay was one of three one-off dramas the playwright wrote.
This doco looks at the life and work of author Patricia Grace. Filmed at home, on marae and in classrooms, Grace discusses her writing process, her Hongoeka Bay upbringing, her children's books, and her Māori identity and belonging to the land (a theme of her then-recently successful novel Potiki).
Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and a changing way of life in a dwindling East Coast town. Director Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to direct, write and produce a feature; as well, the crew was Māori-dominated.
This Kerry Brown-directed clip was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. Cameo-filled, the vibrant hip-hop song is a plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo (and it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation). “It’s time to ...” Tu meke!
This passionate, articulate courtroom drama sets in conflict opinions about the sale of a block of Māori ancestral land. Jim Moriarty comments on proceedings as a tangata whenua conscience. It was adapted by Rowley Habib from his play and was the first TV drama to be written by a Māori scriptwriter.
Little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned feature follow-up to Ngati. This apposite story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home.
A Witi Ihimaera short story about culture clash is the basis for this comic drama directed by Larry Parr. Set in the 1940s Whangamomona, it focuses on conflict between the local tohunga (Sonny Waru) and a feisty Pākehā woman (Annie Whittle), as seen through the eyes of a young boy (Julian Arahanga).
This Pioneer Women episode dramatised the story of Hera Ngoungou: an eight-year-old Pākekā girl kidnapped in Taranaki in 1874 and raised as Māori; she did not see her birth family for 50 years by which time she identified as Māori. Ngoungou is played by Ginette McDonald in a Feltex-winning performance.
“When old and young come together to do this, it shows the strength of their convictions.” This film is a chronicle of a key moment in the Māori renaissance: the 1975 land march led by then 79-year-old Whina Cooper. Includes interviews with marchers and stirring evidence of Cooper’s oratory skills.
“The big ALL FUN show for the whole family to enjoy!” was the tagline for this classic musical comedy feature. There’s a romantic plot, but this is only an excuse for a melange of madcap, pep-filled 60s musical fun. Sir Howard Morrison, Kiri and Rotorua are the stars in the tiki-flavoured tale.
This episode of the controversial 70s series about Governor George Grey sees war looming in the Waikato as Māori tribes band together. Peacemaker and kingmaker Wiremu Tamehana (Don Selwyn) agonises over the right course of action in this Feltex Award winner (for best script and drama).
In 2007 Corporal Willie Apiata, of the NZ Army's elite, secretive SAS unit, was awarded the Victoria Cross for carrying a wounded soldier to safety while under fire in Afghanistan. This doco had exclusive access to the shy soldier, from the time of the award to dealing with sudden celebrity.
Watch excerpts and go behind the scenes of the local box office record-smashing film. Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Taika Waititi's second feature revolves around an imaginative East Coast boy trying to make sense of his world - and the return of his just-out-of-jail father.
The uplifting clip is as famous as the song, which in 2010 re-entered charts courtesy of Boy. Accompanied by Jo, our breakdancing guide, we take a tour of Patea and surrounds, as the Patea Maori Club is captured bopping and twirling like piwakawaka, and Dalvanius does a pūkana out the car window. Legend.
This controversial (for its te reo use) episode of the Peter Hayden-presented National Park celebration series looks at the unique spiritual relationship between the Tuhoe people and the birds and bush in Te Urewera. Directed by Barry Barclay, it strives to tell the story “through their [Tuhoe] eyes".
This doco looks at the life of East Coast-born Moana Ngārimu, the sole recipient from the Māori Battalion to be awarded the Victoria Cross during WWII. He was killed on 27th March 1943, after taking then defending overnight a hilltop position (and injured men) in Tunisia. He was 24.
Host Olly Ohlson was the first Māori presenter to anchor his own kid’s TV show, and his catchphrase "Keep cool till after school" is remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids. This episode sees a game of Maorimind (a te reo test based on Mastermind) and a gob-stopping place name pronunciation.
This episode of Koha is an examination of the Māori feature film industry, from the pioneers of the silent era up to Mauri. Reflection on international screenings of Ngati frames interviews with Witarina Harris, Ramai Hayward, Barry Barclay, Wi Kuki Kaa and Merata Mita. Features rare film footage.
In Haka Māori myth is re-told through a series of stirring haka performances, amidst spitting mud and fire and ... in Paremoremo Prison and under a motorway. These scenes are intercut with archive imagery of post-pākehā Māori life, from first contact to Māori Battalion, urban drift and protest.
This Arthur Everard-directed doco pursues four young Māori - Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip - as they transition from school, whānau and rural life To Live In the City (Wellington). A Seven Up-style 1991 sequel To Live in the City 24 Years On, picked on the lives of the four, now middle aged.
Muscular and intense, this challenging music video uses haka to boldly bring to life personal struggle. Taane: "I had to shoot a video for this powerful piece of music. It has become a catalyst for change within my life. A tool to help unlock and understand the past, present and future."
This doco looks at efforts to restore the 'mauri' (life spirit) of Northland's Lake Omapere, a large fresh water lake - and taonga to the Ngāpuhi people - made toxic by pollution. It is a timely challenge to NZ’s 100% Pure branding and an argument for eco-sensitive kaitiakitanga (guardianship)
Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe was the first Māori pilot in the RNZAF. 'Lucky Johnny' was a WWII hero who flew an amazing 22 missions, and was involved in the legendary 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III. Watch excerpts from the docu-drama Listener reviewer Diana Wichtel called "a terrific yarn".
In 1977 protesters occupied Bastion Point, after the announcement of a housing development on land once belonging to Ngāti Whātua. 506 days later police and army arrived to remove them. This doco includes interviews with protesters, and footage from landmark doco Bastion Point Day 507.
This award-winning NHNZ doco uses front-running camera techniques and Māori myth to delve into the night-time world of our ancient forests: bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” weta, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills. Narrated by George Henare with composer Hirini Melbourne as guide.
This doco explores the work of Ralph Hotere, now arguably NZ's greatest living artist. The film is framed around interviews and the execution of a large mural made for the Founders Theatre, Hamilton; and accompanied by an illuminating Ian Wedde essay and reflections from director Sam Pillsbury.
This clip for the Dam Native classic won Best Video at the 1996 NZ Music Awards. Directed by Jonathan King, the sepia-tinged print, colonial photo studio-styled art direction (tokotoko and Edwardian suits) is beautifully realised and makes for an effective back-drop to the political lyrics.
Witi Ihimaera was the first Māori writer to publish a book of short stories and a novel. In this wide-ranging Kaleidoscope profile Ihimaera (here in his late 30s) talks about being “the boy from the sticks made good”, and conforming to expectations. George Henare reads excerpts from Ihimaera’s work.
NZ showbiz icon Howard Morrison gets the surprise of his life in this emotional reunion of his many friends and whānau. Veteran Presenter Bob Parker consults his big red book to revisit all of the major career milestones of the man known as ‘Ol’ Brown Eyes’, and simply, ‘Mr Entertainment’.
Up to the broadcast of this important documentary series, the TV landscape was pretty much European. Tangata Whenua was looked on as a "window into the Māori world". Equally, it provided Māori, who had relocated into the urban areas, a most important re-engagement with their 'taha Māori' or their 'Māoriness'.
This historic drama series screened at a time when Māori agitation about the inequalities regarding their status was making headlines. Seeing this history rekindled Māori vigour in maintaining the things they saw as important for the future of their culture and people.
The news bulletin in the Māori language first went air during Māori Language Week in 1982. Significant for pioneering Māori news on mainstream TV, for two decades it has been a platform for Māori to comment on issues and events. This episode presented by Derek Fox covers Waitangi Day 1984.
Koha began in 1980 and was a look into te ao Māori for Pākekā while providing a link for urban Māori estranged from their culture. It had 'wairua Māori' and was the first regular Māori programme shown in primetime. This episode looks at the famous Te Māori international touring exhibition of Māori art.
Barry Barclay's story of a post-war Māori community is a beautiful film. There are many reasons why Ngati should be part of the collection and bias is one of them: as a seven-year-old I'd ride eight miles by horseback, with my grandfather, to the East Coast bay where most of it was shot.
A waka huia is traditionally a treasure box to hold the revered huia feather. Waka Huia the TV series records and preserves Māori culture and customs. This first episode is about the language and its survival and features groundbreaking interviews with Sir James Henare and Dame Mira Szaszy.
A series of dramas engaging with Māori experiences of the Pākehā world, E Tipu E Rea was a flag-bearer for Māori storytelling on primetime TV. The first drama production to use predominantly Māori personnel, it was formative for many careers (Tem Morrison, Lee Tamahori, Riwia Brown, and more).
I include Billy T James in this list because of his ability to take the piss out of Māori (and everyone else!). Some Māori were angry - for a while - but Billy T's bro-humour (black singlet, yellow towel) was infectious. The gift he left behind - being able to laugh at ourselves - is timeless.
A short series of biographies on famous Māori made in 1990, these life stories stand the test of time. As we walk into the future, there is always comfort in knowing about our past. This episode features the prophet and political figure T.W. Ratana.
Tainui Stephens' documentary tells the stories of five men who served with the Māori Battalion in WWII. Narration (by George Henare), remembrances, visits to historic sites, and archival footage create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion.
This hard-hitting movie has to be included for pointing out the problem of domestic violence, not only among Māori, but all societies. It gave a very powerful account of the huge problem, imparting a message that transcends race and social status.
The producers of this "Māori Twilight Zone" took a gamble and TV's winning wheel stopped at the right place. The mix of horror movie and traditional storytelling came out of left-field, but melded into compelling drama, steeped in Māori spiritualism. It deserves a place in this list.
After a quarter of a century of protest, agitation, and court hearings, here and in England, the Māori Television Service was launched in 2004. A broadcasting milestone, Māori now had a dedicated channel where they could hear the reo, see their culture and draw on the wealth of archive taonga.
Māori Television has staked such a claim on Anzac Day coverage that the two have almost become synonymous with each other. The all-day broadcast began with this broadcast in 2006. The dignified, poignant coverage stands out as a huge commitment to this national day of tribute.
Coverage of the Māori Queen's tangi and funeral spread across three networks and streamed live to the world. It was a massive occasion for Māori and all New Zealanders - more than 430,000 people watched. I can't recall any other occasion of this magnitude broadcast in Māori television history. Moe mai e Te Arikinui.
Long-running current affairs show Marae was the 'bones' of Koha given another body. A feature is the immediacy of the live-to-air component, mixed with pre-recorded general items. One of the high points is the post-election interviews with successful Māori candidates.
An alignment of stars in the mid-year sky known as Matariki (the Pleiades) signals the Māori New Year; a time of remembering and renewal. Read More >
Whai Ngata lays out the kaupapa behind his inaugural Matariki 2009 selection of “iconic Māori programmes ...” Read More >
NZ On Screen would like to acknowledge Māori Television Service, Screentime Limited, TVNZ, TVNZ Archives, NZ Film Commission, Robin Scholes and Screenline. Thanks also to the Auckland War Memorial Museum for the use of the manu tukutuku image and zAmb0ni for the Pleiades photo.
NZ ON SCREEN 2013
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