NZ On Screen's Pacific Collection celebrates many things — many islands, many cultures, and the many Pasifika creatives who have enriched Aotearoa, by bringing their stories to the screen. The collection is curated by Stephen Stehlin, whose involvement in flagship Pacific magazine show Tagata Pasifika goes back to its very first season. In his backgrounder, Stehlin touches on sovereignty, diversity, Polyfest and bro'Town — and the relationship between Pacific peoples and Māori in Aotearoa.
Presented by Niuean broadcaster Foufou Susana Hukui, this first episode of the long-running Pasifika current affairs series includes items on Cook Islands dance, the “Otara flea market”, and NZ work schemes for islanders. Samoan Maligi Elvie presents South Pacific news, while Vainetutai Temaeva-Nicholls covers the Cook Islands. Debuting on 4 April 1987, the TVNZ series broke ground as the first NZ television show to focus on PI stories (earlier show See Here was aimed at both Māori and Pasifika audiences). Researcher Iulia Leilua went on to report for Native Affairs.
This long-running weekday series was aimed at Māori and Pacific Island viewers. Presented by young Kiwi-Samoan Ramona Papali'i, the five-minute long show was broadcast during lunchtimes from 1980 to 1986. Papali'i, who had worked on earlier television show Pacific Viewpoint, was one of the only Pacific Islanders on-screen at the time. Donna Awatere Huata also made an appearance, instructing how children could be taught to read. After See Here went off air, Pacific Island magazine show Tagata Pasifika began a multidecade run in 1987.
In this episode of Pacific Viewpoint, Pacific women's advocate Eleitino 'Paddy' Walker is interviewed about the success of P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A, an organisation she helped set up in 1976. While at the fourth Pacific Allied (Womens) Council Inspires Faith in Ideals Concerning All conference, she talks about giving members a "sense of belonging" and fulfilling the group's goal to unite Pasifika women. The Samoan-Kiwi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 as part of the 1000 women project, and became the first Auckland City councillor of Pacific descent. Walker died in 2015 at age 98.
Actor Robbie Magasiva and discus champ Beatrice Faumuina oversee this hour-long Tagata Pasifika 20th birthday celebration. Presenters past and present survey changes in the Aotearoa PI community over the show’s run: from education, arts and culture (Ardijah, OMC, Michel Tuffery’s corned beef bulls and the Naked Samoans), to political pioneers (Mark Gosche, Winnie Laban), and sports heroes (All Black icons Jones, Lomu and Umaga). Among those talking about the show’s importance to NZ Pasifika culture are Helen Clark, Annie Crummer and many others.
In 2006 photographer Greg Semu was offered the first residency at indigenous museum Quai Branly in Paris. Just over a decade earlier his debut exhibition was on at Auckland Art Gallery — and he was making an award-nominated music video for the Sisters Underground, with veteran video director Kerry Brown. Set around Mangere Bridge, their clip exudes a palpable warmth, even if the lyrical references to MAC-10s and a hot and cruel June morning are nods to MC Hassanah’s Nigerian origins, rather than the South Auckland suburb. The song got to number six on the Kiwi charts.
This 1982 Lookout documentary charts Samoan novelist and poet Albert Wendt’s personal view of Samoans in Auckland. Set mainly in what was then predominantly Samoan Grey Lynn, Wendt looks at how New Zealand-born Samoans maintain the traditions of their homeland. He also examines the close ties between those in New Zealand and the wider ainga, or extended family, back home. The church’s role in the community is highlighted, along with sports. Wendt also addresses what he sees as the double edged sword of remittance: sending money back to islands.
This 1961 edition of Pictorial Parade visits Western Samoa shortly before it gains independence from New Zealand. Locals are seen voting in the May referendum, where a huge majority voted to self-rule. Surgeon Ioane Okesene and his large family feature in this newsreel; daughter Karaponi is filmed marrying her Kiwi partner Bill McGrath in Apia. (Trivia fact: Rugby legend Michael Jones' mother, Maina Jones, is among the wedding guests.) Western Samoa's close ties to Aotearoa are highlighted, with stories of locals moving downunder to study, such as medical student Margaret Stehlin.
On the 3rd of September 1974, Niueans voted to self-govern in free association with New Zealand. Inquiry visits the tiny Pacific Island atoll one week before this hugely significant referendum, to take the mood of the people and observe how the island, which relies on shipped imports, keeps its economy afloat. Reporter Joe Coté interviews future Niue premier Robert Rex and Hima Douglas, a future politician. Coté investigates if the decision to self-govern will affect the large number of Niueans who leave each year to settle in New Zealand.
After nearly 50 years living under New Zealand rule, Western Samoa gained its independence on 1 January 1962. Pictorial Parade visits Apia to witness the special occasion. Among the dignitaries taking part in the ceremony are Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Mata'afa Mulinu'u II, joint heads of state Tupua Tamasese Mea’ole and Malietoa Tanumafili II, and Kiwi PM Keith Holyoake. The Western Samoa flag is hoisted before the first parliament sits, while hundreds of locals sing and dance in the heat of the day. The country dropped the first part of its name in 1997.
This 1960 National Film Unit documentary visits the Cook Islands, a group of volcanic isles and coral atolls administered by New Zealand. Ron Bowie's film surveys the challenges of island life (sourcing fresh water, lack of timber for housing) as well as agriculture (coconuts), recreation and schooling. Though patronising — describing Rarotongan people as “the cheerful islander” — the narration confronts some impacts of modernity (eg the shift to European diet for dental health), and anticipates young people will be the islands' biggest export.
Sons for the Return Home tells the story of a Romeo and Juliet romance between students Sione, a NZ-raised Samoan, and Sarah, a middle class palagi. Director Paul Maunder shifts between time and setting (London, Wellington, Samoa) in adapting Albert Wendt's landmark 1973 novel. Sons was the first feature film attentive to Samoan experience in NZ — alongside themes of identity, racism and social and sexual consciousness. In this excerpt Sione meets Sarah's parents, and his tin'a has him scrubbing their Newtown pavement prior to Sarah's reciprocal visit.
In this video, languid Pacific Island imagery (poi, hibiscus, tamariki, breaching whales) and gorgeous reggae pop are contrasted with images of French nuclear testing. There are punchy 'no nukes' slogans and graphics, but a great performance from Herbs does the work effortlessly in this simple, well-crafted video. 'French Letter' was originally released in 1982 and began an eleven week stay on the Kiwi singles charts — despite very little radio play. It was rereleased in 1995 to protest the resumption of nuclear testing: "Let me be more specific - get out of the Pacific!"
Bill Sevesi was the 'Godfather' of Polynesian music in New Zealand; his impact can be heard in the strum of ukeleles in classrooms across the country. In this 24-minute film Sevesi (born Wilfred Jeffs) narrates his life story, including his childhood in Tonga, making his first guitar, and his role in bringing Pacific Island music into the dance halls of 1940's and 50's New Zealand. Sevesi's bands mixed Hawaiian steel guitar with pop tunes of the day, resulting in sunny hits like 'Kissing Hula'. Watch out for uke player Sione Aleki, Tonga's answer to Jimi Hendrix.
Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series; this episode is one of six films that screened on TV One in 1996. It's a haunting short film about a young girl named Ana (former Shortland Street star Jaime Passier Armstrong), who asks about a photo in a family album and gets an awkward brush off from her mum. When the family receives news of the tragic death of mum's sister Rose (Sela Brown), it's time for truth, and secrets from the past are revealed.
Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series. This episode was one of six films that screened on TV One in 1996. The short drama follows teenage school friends Siosi (Johnny La'ulu), Matt (Faifua Amiga) and John (Robert Luisi), who are awaiting their School Certificate results. On the day he receives his grades, Siosi is beaten by his father (Ene Pataia). The following day, he discovers a tragedy has occurred within his circle of friends. This acts as a catalyst to resolve his own troubles at home. A Day in the Life won two awards at Canadian indigenous festival Dreamspeakers.
This hit animated series about five Auckland school kids was created by Elizabeth Mitchell and theatre group Naked Samoans. This episode sees Vale (Oscar Kightley) dealing with deadlines, punch-ups and prima donnas as he rushes to write and direct the school musical. In the audience are HRH Prince Charles, Chris Knox, Scribe and Helen Clark, who all end up joining in during a showstopping final number about togetherness. "Stop the violence. We're honkies and Asians, horries and curry munchers. Morningside for life."
Sione's Wedding is a feel-good feature comedy about four 30-something guys who must each find a girlfriend before their best friend Sione's wedding — or be left out in the cold. Through the efforts of these bumbling blokes to get the girl(s), the film brought to life the colour and humour of the urban Samoan community in Auckland, the world's largest Polynesian city. A breakthrough PI-Kiwi film, Sione's broke box office records when it opened in cinemas throughout New Zealand in March 2006. Actor Oscar Kightley co-wrote the script with James Griffin.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that ran for four series from 1993 to 1997. This selection of excerpts contains sketches from the final season of the Gibson Group satirical show famous for its broad, take-no-prisoners humour, and memorable characters and catchphrases. The wacky Semisi family and their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspire mirth and groans in equal measure and filmmaker Sima Urale is enjoyably ludicrous as the terrifying Aunty Mele. Jemaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement and members of the Bro' Town posse also feature.
In this 2010 Tagata Pasifika story, reporter Adrian Stevanon follows efforts by a group of Pacific Island mariners to preserve the traditions and skills of the great Polynesian voyagers — as an armada of canoes from the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Fiji and Aotearoa takes to the seas of Te Moananui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean). Stevanon has zero sailing hours when he joins the Pan-Pacific crew of Hine Moana in the Cook Islands, en route to Samoa. Unsure “if this city boy can handle the high seas”, he takes time to find his sea legs, but eventually gets on the foi (tiller) and into ‘vaka mode’.
Taufa'ahau Tupou IV was crowned King of Tonga on his 49th birthday. This NFU film covers the lead up to and the entire ceremony on 4 July 1967. It was the first coronation in the island kingdom since Tupou’s mother, Queen Sālote, in 1918. Tongans from the outer islands had been arriving in the capital Nuku'alofa for a month. Dignitaries included the Duke and Duchess of Kent and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, plus opposition leader Norman Kirk. Director Derek Wright covers the ceremony with decorum, reflecting the dignity of the occasion.
After a first video was rejected, this version directed by Lee Baker was finished just as ‘How Bizarre’ went to number one in NZ. However, it did play its part internationally as the song became a huge worldwide hit. Shot on a soundstage in Ponsonby and at Ellerslie Racecourse for a budget of $7,000, it was shown on US networks 14,986 times in 1997 and 1998. Pauly Fuemana shares the limelight with Sina Siapia, and a Filipino named Hill, who was enlisted after turning up to help out with the shoot – and became something of a celebrity in his homeland as a result.
Tusi Tamasese’s first feature tells the story of a taro farmer (played by real life farmer Fa’afiaula Sagote) who finds the courage to stand tall for his family and culture, and stand up to sceptical villagers. Variety called it “compelling drama”. Though previous films (e.g. Flying Fox on a Freedom Tree) had told stories inspired by Samoan writers, The Orator was the first feature written and directed by a Samoan — and the first filmed in Samoan. When it debuted in September 2011 at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, it won a special jury mention in the Orizzonti (New Horizons) section.
Tokelau is a New Zealand territory, spanning three small South Pacific atolls. In the 1960s the New Zealand Government expressed concern about overpopulation, and instigated the Tokelau Islands Resettlement Scheme. This National Film Unit documentary surveys Tokelau society and culture from a New Zealand perspective, and follows the journey of a group of Tokelauans who chose to migrate to Aotearoa (where they adapt to telephones and horses near Te Puke). It was one of three NFU documentaries directed by Derek Wright on Pacific Island subjects.
Overhearing his crush say she only likes “real island guys” is all it takes to get Adam (Neil Amituanai, in his big screen debut) packing his bags for Samoa, in this comedy by Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa (TV's Fresh). Shot largely in Samoa over two weeks, the self-funded film co-stars Samoan locals Vito Vito and Fesuiai Viliamu as Adam’s cousins, teaching him the basics of island life. Three Wise Cousins reached number eight at the NZ box office in its opening weekend, and continued to win solid audiences, despite minimal publicity. Stuff critic James Croot called it "colourful and charming".
"Samoa mo Samoa!" — King Kapisi blends his Samoan roots with hip hop culture in this video shot on Samoa's ring roads. The hip hop music video standby of the drive-by gets revised Pasifika-style, and the fire poi, papase'ea sliding rocks, lavalava, coconuts, and colourful Apia buses make this clip staunchly fa'a Samoa.
This June 2013 edition of the TVNZ Pasifika youth show is presented by actor Robbie Magasiva from his base in Melbourne, where he has a role in Australian prison drama Wentworth. Elsewhere the Poly-plethora includes a visit by Pani (Goretti Chadwick) to Armageddon Expo in Hamilton to meet Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa. Pani makes the hard man with Hawaiian heritage blush, and gets the lowdown on his mako tatau. Niuean artist Kenneth Green also talks about his tattoo; Tiger and Raa visit the school principal; and reggae band Brownhill close with ‘First Love’.
Former pop singer Ngaire Fuata grew up in Whakatane thinking she was Māori. Her father Fu, from the tiny Pacific island of Rotuma — population 2000 — had long given up explaining where it was (even to his Dutch wife Marion). In this Tagata Pasifika documentary, Ngaire’s beloved father takes ill, so she visits his birthplace with her eight-year-old daughter Ruby. One flight to Nadi, a drive to Suva and a three-day boat ride later, they reach the island during the magical Fara season. Salat marked the documentary directing debut of Whole of the Moon actor Nikki Si'ulepa.
The 60s and 70s saw an influx of Pacific Island migrants to New Zealand. This 2015 Tagata Pasifika special looks at the children and grandchildren of those adventurers, who are part of a “second migration” — from Aotearoa to Australia. Reporter Sandra Kailahi talks to families about the reasons why they made “the jump” (education, jobs, opportunity, “a better life than what I had in South Auckland”); the challenges they faced (contract work, floods, racism); the trade-offs (lack of community and culture) — and why some chose to come back ‘home’ to New Zealand.
Feature film Vai ranges across the Pacific — from an eight-year-old girl's drama-filled day in Fiji, to a sacred moment in an Aotearoa forest. The film follows a similiar collaborative filmmaking model to Waru (2017), only this time the link between each story is a female one. Many of the stories are also connected by water (vai). Vai premiered at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. The nine Pasifika women filmmakers are Sharon and Nicole Whippy, Becs Arahanga, Amberley Jo Aumua, Matasila Freshwater, Dianna Fuemana, Mīria George, 'Ofa-ki Guttenbeil-Likiliki and Marina Alofagia McCartney.