Jim Moriarty's screen career has ranged from 70s soap Close to Home and Rowley Habib's The Protestors, to starring in mock-doco The Waimate Conspiracy and playing Dad in 2009's The Strength of Water. Committed to theatre as a tool for change, he has worked on many projects involving troubled youth (eg. 2003 documentary Make or Break). His directing work includes TV's Mataku, and a stage musical of Once Were Warriors.
I produce theatre, I direct theatre, I perform in stuff, and it’s all really to do with the emancipation of people, freedom and liberation of people, that’s what I’m interested in. Jim Moriarty, in an interview on Lumiere.net.nz
A road movie with a heart of gold, Mark II is "the Polynesian Easy Rider". Three teens (Nicholas Rogers, Mitchell Manuel, Faifua Amiga) head south from Auckland in a two-tone Mark II Zephyr, two of them blissfully unaware they're being pursued by a van-load of vengeful thugs. Along the way, they encounter the Mongrel Mob, who turn out to be quite helpful, and experience love, prejudice and jealousy from strangers. Written by Mike Walker and Manuel, it was TVNZ's first telefeature and is the third film in a loose trilogy (following Kingi's Story and Kingpin).
Part two of a trilogy (see also Kingi's Story, Mark II) about troubled NZ youth. Filmed at, and inspired by residents of Kohitere Boys Training Centre, Levin, the bros-in-borstal tale follows a group of teens who are wards of the state; played by actors Mitchell Manuel, Faifua "Junior" Amiga and Nicholas Rogers. Kingpin focuses on the bond between Riki (Manuel) and Willie (Amiga), who along with the other kids are terrorised by Karl (Rogers), the Kingpin of the title. Powerful and moving, it's directed by Mike Walker, who co-wrote the script with Manuel.
Ricky is shy and has an overbearing father. He and Telly, an extrovert misfit, slip out into the night and commandeer Ricky's father's fishing boat. They cast off and head out into the freedom of the fog. Peter Salmon's Fog highlights oppression, boredom and sex: the cultural trinity of the New Zealand small town. Shot in Ngawi, an isolated fishing village on the Wairarapa coastline, the crush of this world is palpable. Fog was selected for Critics' Week at Cannes; it also scored Chelsie Preston Crayford a gong for Best Actor in a Short Film at the NZ Film Awards.
Released in Kiwi cinemas in August 2009 - after winning praise at festivals in Berlin and Rotterdam - The Strength of Water marks the big-screen debut of Māori playwright Briar Grace-Smith, and Pākehā director Armagan Ballantyne. The film centres on a 10-year-old twin brother and sister in an isolated part of the Hokianga, and the events that follow when they encounter a young stranger. The Strength of Water merges a spare, naturalistic portrait of a Māori family struggling to stay above water, with moody images of earth and sea, loss and new beginnings.
Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe was the first Māori pilot in the RNZAF. Nicknamed 'Lucky Johnny', he was a WWII hero who flew an amazing 22 missions, was involved in the legendary 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III, and insisted on removing his blindfold when he faced a German firing squad. This award-winning docu-drama tells Pohe's extraordinary life story. When the doco screened on Māori Television, Listener reviewer Diana Wichtel called it "a terrific yarn", and it won Best Documentary Aotearoa at the 2008 Wairoa Māori Film Festival Awards.
With a stellar cast, including Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita and Billy T James (as a Marxist), The Protesters explores issues surrounding race and land ownership in NZ in the aftermath of the Springbok Tour and occupation of Bastion Point. A group of Māori and Pākehā protestors occupy ancestral land that the government is trying to sell. As they wait for the police to turn up they debate whether to go quietly or respond with violence. Though some wounds are healed, The Protesters ends on a note of division and uncertainly, gauging the contemporary climate.
Christchurch policeman Stefen Harris launched his film career with this feature-length adaptation of his own book The Waikikamukau Conspiracy, about a small town Māori land claim. When drama funding couldn’t be secured, it was shot as a low budget mockumentary in just six days in South Canterbury. Jim Moriarty manages to be endearing in his determination to regain his people’s land at any cost, while David McPhail and Mark Hadlow enthusiastically lampoon the judicial system. The film won Best Digital Feature at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.
This teledrama explores the tensions surrounding an elderly woman's tangi, as whānau members gather in a suburban house. Alienation of urban Māori — particularly son Paul (Jim Moriarty) — from iwi roots, and differing notions of how to honour the dead, are at the heart of the conflict between the mourners. A pioneering exploration of Māori themes, the Rowley Habib teleplay was one of three one-off dramas the playwright wrote (alongside 1978's The Death of the Land, and 1982's The Protesters) encouraged by director Tony Isaac. It screened in April 1980.
The Mackenzie Affair told the story of colonial folk hero James Mackenzie: accused of rustling 1000 sheep in the high country that would later bear his name. This fifth and final episode sees the manhunt for Mackenzie over, with ‘Jock’ facing a sentence of hard labour and provoking sympathy from equivocal sheriff Henry Tancred. Adapted from James McNeish’s book, the early co-production (with Scottish TV) imported Caledonian lead actor James Cosmo (Braveheart, Game of Thrones) and veteran UK TV director Joan Craft. It was made by Hunter’s Gold producer John McRae.
This courtroom drama sets in conflict opinions about the proposed sale of a block of Māori ancestral land. The arguments are intercut with footage of the 1975 land march, and Jim Moriarty comments on proceedings as a tangata whenua conscience. The drama shows its stage origins (it was adapted by Rowley Habib from his 1976 play) but it is passionate and articulate, and is notable as the first TV drama to be written by a Māori scriptwriter. The grievances aired echoed contemporary events, particularly the Eva Rickard-led occupation of the Raglan Golf Course.
Big business and a small, struggling rural support town are on a collision course in this good natured comedy made on a shoestring budget with extensive community goodwill. Policeman, author and film director Stefen Harris reunites the cast from his debut The Waimate Conspiracy but moves the action up SH1 to Temuka. An adaptation of his novel The Hydrosnipe, it features Mark Hadlow as an amoral corporate trouble-shooter threatening the town’s only petrol station after its recently deceased owner may have stumbled on a priceless scientific breakthrough.
Are workplaces a chance for mutual gain, or is it only the higher ups that benefit? Dean Parker's award-winning script for this Sunday TV drama certainly doesn't duck the awkward questions. Joel Tobeck and Luisa Burgess play Bosco and Selena, who get factory jobs as assembly workers, get it on, then take opposing sides on motivational talks by management. Conscious the story would be punctuated with advertisements, Parker decided to counterattack by slipping in occasional clips from an interview with legendary unionist Jock Barnes. Later Parker turned the film into a play.
City Life screened from 1996 to 1998 and made a direct appeal to New Zealand's Gen X apartment-dwelling demographic. Following the lives of a tight-knit group of friends, and featuring racy shots of Auckland's K-Road and nightlife set to contemporary NZ pop music, City Life was NZ's answer to Melrose Place. In this excerpt from the first episode, the friends are thrown into conflict when one of their own (played by Kevin Smith) decides to marry outside the circle. Complications ensue when Smith shares a brief, but notorious, screen kiss with Charles Mesure.
Gibson Group series Frontseat was the longest-running arts programme of its era. Hosted by actor Oliver Driver, the weekly series aimed a broad current affairs scope at the arts. This episode asks, "Is there really an art boom, and if so, why aren't the artists benefiting?" Art dealer Peter McLeavey, the late John Drawbridge and others offer their opinions. It also features a story about whether NZ really needs eight drama schools. Richard Finn, Miranda Harcourt and newcomer Richard Knowles (later a Shortland Street regular) are among those interviewed.
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his prior film, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; though critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film "with style and brains".
Marae is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. First broadcast in 1992, the magazine programme aims to keep its audience in touch with the issues, political or otherwise, that affect Māori, and explain kaupapa Māori from a Māori perspective. The Marae Digipoll gives the programme publicity in other media as a respected barometer of matters Māori. Marae was re-launched in October 2010 as Marae Investigates, presented by Scotty Morrison and Jodi Ihaka Marae. It screens on TV One, and is presented half in english and half in te reo Māori.
Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.
City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."
Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.
Described as a "Māori Twilight Zone", Mataku was a series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori experience with the "unexplained". Two South Pacific Pictures-produced series screened on TV3; a later series screened on TV One in 2005. Each episode was introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style. The bi-lingual series was a strong international and domestic success; producer Carey Carter: "Our people are very spiritual ... and here we are ... turning it into stories so that the rest of the world can get a glimpse of that aspect of our culture."
Kete Aronui is a documentary series that features leading contemporary Māori artists. Screening on Māori Television, produced by KIWA Media, and funded through Te Māngai Pāho, its title translates as "basket of knowledge." Each episode provides a portrait: surveying the lives and practices of the artists, often with a focus on how they interact with their whanāu and community. The series surveys artists working in a diverse range of mediums, including dance, photography, theatre, film, poetry, music, tā moko, weaving, and sculpture.