Julian Arahanga shot into the public eye in 1994's Once Were Warriors, playing the son who becomes a gang-member. He followed it with a starring role in cross-cultural romance Broken English. Since then Arahanga has continued a prolific career working in front of, and increasingly behind the camera - including as producer and director on Māori Television series Songs from the Outside.
I had a ball working in Otara and seeing all the children so interested in what was going on. That was quite a good moment for me, to actually realise this film was real, it’s not make believe, it’s actually happening. Julian Arahanga, on filming Once Were Warriors
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.
A group of young tourists charter a yacht and go cruising in the South Pacific. In a dense fog, they come across an old, sick Greek man on a sinking boat and rescue him. They have no idea of how evil he is and how brutal their night is to become. Thanks to the special weapon he is holding, this man has the power to inhabit other people's bodies. The Ferryman approaches - he's after the old Greek as the path to the afterlife is close and there is a payment to be made.
Solo mum Leeanne Rosser (Kate Elliott) is rejected by her Christian mother. She tries to stay close to her brother Brent, unaware of his secret life as a thief. One day a burglary goes wrong, and a woman is badly injured. The incident causes repercussions for all the members of the two families, and relationships begin to fracture. Based on Maurice Gee novel Crime Story, Fracture's release was delayed by the collapse of director Larry Parr's production company Kahukura in 2002. The Press called Fracture "competent, confident and complex".
While playing at the beach with their grandmother, two children witness an Elvis impersonator walk out of the sea. They believe he's the "fishman" lover of a female taniwha, Hine Tai. Magic realist mayhem — and tragedy — ensues as the stranger stirs up the life of their whanau in the quiet fishing village. The fable, written by Briar Grace-Smith and directed by Peter Burger, received six nominations at 2002 NZ TV Awards, winning Best Drama, and Camera. It screened on TV3 and features the Bic Runga song 'All Fall Down'.
More than just a sequel to Once Were Warriors, this film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. One day, as he downs his latest opponent, he's unaware that his son has died in a gang fight. Scripted by Alan Duff, directed by Ian Mune, the film was the 2nd-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Warriors). It scooped the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
Nina (Aleksandra Vujcic) has emigrated downunder from wartime Croatia. When she falls in love with Māori cook Eddie (Julian Arahanga) and marries a Chinese man who is trying to stay in NZ, her domineering father Ivan is furious. The second movie from Gregor Nicholas remains one of the few from NZ in which Pākehā culture hardly features. The result was one of the highest-grossing NZ films of the 1990s. International reviews praised its power and strong cast — especially Croatian discovery Aleksandra Vujcic ("instantly alluring" said Janet Maslin). Vujcic won one of five NZ Film awards.
Once Were Warriors was an internationally successful film that opened the eyes of cinema goers to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau, was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. Warriors provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Mus and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. In the backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
A death-bed confession from a touch judge leads to a repeat of a test match between the All Blacks and Wales played 25 years earlier — with the same players. Before the footy, a former Welsh star is forced to face up to a past romance. Mateships and rivalries are rekindled in this genial "what if" yarn, that celebrates and satirises two nations' rugby obsessions. It won best screenplay and supporting actor (John Bach) at 1992's NZ Film Awards. The cast saw former All Blacks and Welsh rugby reps playing alongside acting greats from both countries.
A Witi Ihimaera short story about culture clash is the basis for this comic drama written and directed by Larry Parr — and set in the 1940s (perfectly evoked in the mist shrouded Taranaki hamlet of Whangamomona). It focuses on conflict between the local tohunga, Mr Hohepa, and a feisty Pākehā woman, Mrs Jones, as seen through the eyes of the young boy, Tawhai, who helps her deliver mail and groceries. The town is convinced Hohepa has placed a makutu (or curse) on Mrs Jones; but could more basic human emotions — beyond Tawhai’s experience — be at work?