Celebrate iconic Māori television, film and music with this collection, in time for Māori New Year. Watch everything from haka to hip hop, Billy T to the birth of Māori Television. Two backgrounders by former TVNZ Head of Māori Programming Whai Ngata (Koha, Marae) look at Matariki, and the history of Māori programming on New Zealand television.
Geoff Murphy (Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu) directs this freewheeling adaptation of the Māori legend of Uenuku and his affair with the mist maiden Hinepūkohurangi. The story of love, betrayal, and rainbow redemption was the first Māori myth adapted for TV, and the first TV drama to be entirely performed in te reo (The Listener softened viewers by providing a translation prior to screening). Filmed at the Waimarama base of Murphy and cinematographer Alun Bollinger, Uenuku was produced by Peach Wemyss Astor for the NZBC — a then-rare independently produced drama.
This militant debut from rappers Upper Hutt Posse was NZ’s first hip hop record. Dean Hapeta announces himself with a history lesson proudly name checking the great Māori warrior chiefs of the 19th Century — Hone Heke, Te Rauparaha, Te Kooti — and their Māori Battalion successors. ‘E Tu’ is also a personal manifesto with promises to preach the truth but not to brag or wear gold chains. The Hapeta-directed video might lack for budget but its down-the-barrel delivery carries a degree of confrontation rarely seen from NZ musicians up to that point.
The early life of Dame Whina Cooper, one of the most influential Māori leaders of the 20th century, is explored in the first episode of this two-part TVNZ profile. The inspirational leader of the 1975 Māori land march was born in Hokianga in 1897. She recalls her first protest at age 18, working with her people to improve their land (spurring them on with a whistle given to her by Sir Apirana Ngata) and becoming a pig breeder (with aid from Princess Te Puea). She also reminisces about a Tuhoe leader who gave new meaning to the idea of fiery oratory.
Music legend Prince Tui Teka performs his greatest hit ‘E Ipo’ in this excerpt from a TVNZ special recorded at Auckland’s Mandalay Ballroom. Based on a traditional Indonesian folk melody, ‘E Ipo’ was written by Teka with Ngoi (‘Poi E’) Pewhairangi, when he was courting her niece (and his future wife) Missy. The two join Tui Teka on stage (along with Pita Sharples’ Te Roopu Manutaki cultural group) for a rousing rendition performed with his trademark verve and humour. The song reached number one, following te reo-dominated chart-toppers 'The Bridge' (sung by Deane Waretini) in 1981, and Howard Morrison's 1982 version of 'How Great Thou Art'.
Entertainment legend Maui Dalvanius Prime rides an emotional roller coaster, as he looks back on his career in this documentary made in the final stages of his battle with lung cancer. The boy from South Taranaki who dreamed of becoming a circus ringmaster became a taonga of the Kiwi music industry, from success in Sydney with The Fascinations, to his groundbreaking kapa haka / te reo hit ‘Poi E’. He recalls his struggle to come to terms with making Māori music, and takes one last hikoi to the East Coast — where he wrote ‘Poi-E’ with the late Ngoi Pēwhairangi.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part series from 1974, on Māori. Barry Barclay directed, and historian Michael King was writer and interviewer. Each episode (remarkably screening in primetime on Sunday nights) chronicled a different iwi and included interviews with kaumātua — a first for New Zealand screens. This episode looks at the people of Waikato, and focuses on the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement), examining why a movement formed in the Waikato in the 19th century to halt land sales and promote Māori authority has contemporary relevance.
This uplifting promotional clip is as famous as the chartbusting song. Accompanied by Jo, the breakdancing guide, for a tour of Patea and surrounds, the Patea Māori Club are captured "bopping and twirling like piwakawaka": at the local marae, in Wellington's Manners Mall, and on Patea’s main street, where milk tankers and sheep trucks pass by the Aotea canoe remembrance arch. So does the impresario himself: Dalvanius does a pūkana out a car window. In 2010 'Poi E' re-entered the charts thanks to Taika Waititi hit Boy. A documentary on the song was released in 2016.
Set in and around the fictional town of Kapua in 1948, Ngati is the story of a Māori community. The film comprises three narrative threads: a boy, Ropata, is dying of leukaemia; the return of a young Australian doctor, Greg, and his discovery that he has Māori heritage; and the fight to keep the local freezing works open. Unique in tone and quietly powerful in its storytelling, Ngati was Barry Barclay's first dramatic feature and the first feature to be written and directed by Māori. Ngati screened in Critics' Week at Cannes.
A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven by their brutally insistent chief towards safety. Two water-boys are crouched in the bow. One of them risks a bold act of compassion — towards the trophy prisoner tied to the stern. The impressively-produced portage has echoes of Werner Herzog movie Fitzcarraldo, but the story is palpably Māori. Directed by Tearepa Kahi, Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival, and was selected for the Berlin, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand festivals.
Inspired by an epiphany at the Waitangi Treaty grounds in 2000, and after learning New Zealand’s founding document was actually several pieces of paper, comedian Mike King went on a quest to learn the stories behind Te Tiriti O Waitangi. King traces the 1840 path of the nine sheets as it accrued its 540 signatures, meets Māori and Pākehā descendants of those involved, and connects with his Māori heritage. The 10-part series screened on Māori Television. Dominion Post critic Linda Burgess acclaimed it as “dignified, conciliatory, informative ...”
Host of weekday kids' programme After School, Olly Ohlson, was the first Māori presenter to anchor his own children's show, and his catchphrase (with accompanying sign language) "Keep cool till after school" is remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids. The show also broke ground in its use of te reo Māori on screen. This episode sees a game of Maorimind (a te reo test based on Mastermind) and the building of a road-sign for the longest place name in New Zealand - a 85-letter te reo gobstopper that Olly rolls out with aplomb: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateatu... etc.
“When old and young come together to do this, it shows the strength of their convictions.” This film is a detailed chronicle of a key moment in the Māori renaissance: the 1975 land march led by then 79-year-old Whina Cooper. A coalition of Māori groups set out from the far north for Wellington, opposed to further loss of their land. This early Geoff Steven documentary includes interviews with many on the march, including Eva Rickard, Tama Poata and Whina Cooper. There is stirring evidence of Cooper’s oratory skills. Steven writes about making the film in the backgrounder.
Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his popular 80s TV shows. There’s Te News (“... somebody pinched all the toilet seats out of the Kaikohe Police Station ... now the cops got nothing to go on!”) with Billy in iconic black singlet and yellow towel; a bro’s guide to home improvement; the first contact skits, and Turangi Vice. No target is sacred (God, The IRA, the talking Japanese sketch) and there are classic advertising spoofs for Pixie Caramel’s “last requests” and Lands For Bags’ “where’d you get your bag”.
In this series celebrating New Zealand's national parks, Peter Hayden travels through some of Aotearoa's most awe-inspiring environments. This episode — looking at the unique spiritual relationship between the Tūhoe people, and the birds and bush of Te Urewera National Park — was directed by Barry Barclay (Ngati). Barclay used his fourth cinema philosophy of indigenous filmmaking, "to tell the contemporary story of the park through their [Tūhoe] eyes". The film attracted controversy for its then exceptional use of te reo. Catherine Bisley writes about the Journeys series here.
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
After years of protest, agitation, and court hearings, the Māori Television Service finally launched on 28 March 2004. This is the first 30 minutes that went to air. Presented by Julian Wilcox and Rongomaianiwaniwa Milroy, the transmission begins with a traditional montage of Aotearoa scenic wonder (with a twist of tangata whenua); the launch proper opens with a dawn ceremony at Māori Television's Newmarket offices, featuring MPs and other dignitaries. Wilcox also gives background information on the channel and outlines upcoming programming highlights.
Howard Morrison gets the surprise of his life in this emotional reunion of his showbiz friends and whānau. Veteran This Is Your Life presenter Bob Parker consults his big red book to revisit all of Morrison's major career milestones. Known as 'The Sinatra of New Zealand' and 'Ol' Brown Eyes', Morrison was a New Zealand entertainment icon. The show brings back his first singing teacher, his Mum, Kahu, his sisters and many friends from the industry. The show is a roll call of major NZ entertainment figures who come to pay tribute to 'Mr Entertainment'.
This TV drama follows a whānau taking a claim to the Waitangi tribunal, over plans by a Pākehā neighbour to build a resort on disputed land. Ngā Tohu jumps between the present day and 1839/40, when Māori chiefs were canvassed to support the Treaty of Waitangi and a settler makes an equivocal land deal with Chief Tohu (George Henare). The exploration of the Treaty's evolving kaupapa is effectively humanised by an age-old love story, and it scored multiple drama gongs at 2000's TV Awards. Director Andrew Bancroft wrote the teleplay with playwright Hone Kouka.
Kicking off with a cover of his hero Elvis Presley's 'That's Alright,' the late Prince Tui Teka delivers a classic performance in this TVNZ-filmed variety show (one of three specials). A classy Bernie Allen-led band and the Yandall Sisters back-up on the smoky Vegas-inspired set. Tui sings his hit 'E Ipo' with wife Missy, and they pay tribute to the song’s Māori lyricist Ngoi (‘Poi-E’) Pewhairangi. The songs are peppered with warmth, humour and poi action (led by a young Pita Sharples), as Tui Teka confirms his reputation as one of Aotearoa's great entertainers.
Māori Battalion - March To Victory tells the story of the New Zealand Army's (28th) Māori Battalion, which fought in campaigns during World War ll. Director and writer Tainui Stephens sets out in the feature-length documentary to tell the stories of five men who served with the unit, and also "capture how they felt about it". Narration by actor George Henare, remembrances, visits to historic sites, archival footage, and graphic stills create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion. Stephens writes about the film in the backgrounder.
This 1972 documentary explores the world of a dying generation of Māori female elders or kuia — “the last of the Māori women with tattooed chins”. Narrator Selwyn Muru extols the place of the kuia in Māori culture, and of wahine tā moko. Among those on screen are 105-year old Ngahuia Hona, who cooks in hot pools, rolls a cigarette, and eats with whānau, and “the oldest Māori” Nga Kahikatea Wirihana, who remembers the Battle of Ōrākau during the land wars, and has outlived four husbands. Into Antiquity was an early documentary from veteran Wayne Tourell.
This episode of Koha episode looks at the milestone Te Māori exhibition of Māori art. The exhibition toured the United States in 1984, opened up a world of Māori taonga to international audiences, and returned home to applause and swelling Māori pride. The episode features the powhiri at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, with future Māori Party co-leader Pita Sharples leading a kapa haka performance. Koha - a weekly, 30 minute programme broadcast in English - was the first regular Māori programme shown in primetime, and provided a window into te ao Māori.
This (mostly) black and white video stars late great actor Wi Kuki Kaa (Ngāti, Utu). The concept is simple but impactful: a close-up on Kaa's eye leads the viewer in and out of a series of memories. In combination with Kaa's performance — seated on a veranda, as family activities take place around him — Chris Graham's video works superbly to convey the essence of the song. The cinematography is by Adam Clark (Boy, the Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night). Julian Arahanga (Broken English) appears among the moving celebration of whānau and community.
Staunch follows the politicisation of Ariana (Once Were Warriors’ Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) a young Māori woman who’s run into trouble with the law. Guided by a sympathetic social worker (Tamati Patuwai) she defends herself against assault charges following a police raid on her home. The Auckland-set TV3 drama was inspired by fact, and co-written by director Keith Hunter and playwright Toa Fraser; it won multiple gongs at the 2002 NZ TV Awards. Staunch was an early screen credit for Fraser (director of feature films No. 2, Dean Spanley, and ballet doco Giselle).
A flagbearer for Māori storytelling on primetime television, E Tipu e Rea (Grow up tender young shoot) was a series of 30 minute dramas touching on a range of Māori experiences of the Pākehā world — from rural horse-back riding and eeling, to urban hostility and cultural estrangement. It marked the first anthology of Māori television plays, and the first TV production to use predominantly Māori personnel. E Tipu e Rea's mandate and achievement was to tell Māori stories in a Māori way.
More than 430,000 people watched television coverage of the Māori Queen's tangi. Broadcast across three networks and streamed around the world, the coverage began with the coronation of the successor to Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Cameras then traced Dame Te Atairangikaahu's final journey from Turangawaewae along the Waikato River by waka, to her final resting place on Mount Taupiri. The presenting team, led by veteran journalist Derek Fox, was chosen by both TVNZ and Māori Television Services.
This 1962 National Film Unit production is a comprehensive survey of the history and (then) state of Māori carving. Many taonga are filmed on display at Wellington’s Dominion Museum, and the design aspects of ‘whakairo’ are examined, from the spiral motif to the origin of iconic black, red and white colouring. Finding reviving tradition in new “community halls”, the film shows the building of Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt in 1960, recording the processes behind woven tukutuku panels and kowhaiwhai patterns, as the tapping of mallets provides a percussive presence.
This 13 part Māori Television series looks at Māori architecture, exploring its unique buildings, history and its relationship to the communities it inhabits. Similar to the work that The Elegant Shed did in articulating a distinctly Pākehā architecture, Whare Māori broke ground for Māori design. Here architect Rau Hoskins takes on the David Mitchell interpreter role. Diana Wichtel in The Listener applauded: "beautifully shot local cultural history through architecture". 'The Village' episode won Best Information Programme at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe 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. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
After kicking off with 'Poi-E' and the opening of landmark exhibition Te Māori in New York, this documentary sets out to summarise the key elements of Māori culture and history in a single hour. Narrator Don Selwyn ranges across past and (mid 80s) present: from early Māori settlement and moa-hunting, to the role of carvings in "telling countless stories". There are visits to Rotorua's Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and a Sonny Waru-led course aimed at getting youth in touch with their Māoritanga. The interviews include Napi Waaka and the late Sir James Hēnare.
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 en masse to remove them. This documentary examines the rich and tragic history of Bastion Point/ Takaparawhau — including how questionable methods were used to gradually take the land from Māori, while basic amenities were withheld from those remaining. The documentary features extensive interviews with protest leader Joe Hawke, and footage from seminal documentary Bastion Point Day 507.
This episode of Koha is an examination of the Māori feature film industry, from the pioneers of the silent era up to feature film Mauri. Reflection on international screenings of groundbreaking feature Ngati frames interviews with Witarina Harris, Ramai Hayward, Barry Barclay, Wi Kuki Kaa and Merata Mita. Barclay talks of the importance of Māori telling Māori stories. “We’ve seen heaps of pictures of cowboys and Indians eh, but they’re always made by the cowboys.” Includes footage of The Devil’s Pit, Rewi's Last Stand, Ngati, The Governor, and Mauri.
This 76-minute documentary 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. Simon Marler's film offers a timely challenge to New Zealand's 100% Pure branding, and an argument for kaitiakitanga (guardianship) that respects ecological and spiritual well-being. There is spectacular footage of the lake's endangered long-finned eel. Barry Barclay in Onfilm called the film "powerful, sobering". It screened at the 2008 National Geographic All Roads Film Festival.
This NFU mini-biopic eulogises the 19th Century Māori leader Te Rauparaha. The Ngāti Toa chief led his people on an exodus from Kāwhia, to a stronghold on Kāpiti Island where he reigned — via musket, flax trade and diplomacy — over a Cook Strait empire extending south to Akaroa. The free-ranging film includes recreations of the 'Wairau Incident' (that stirred fears of Māori uprising amidst settlers); Te Rauparaha’s ignominious 1846 arrest by Governor Grey; and the 1849 reburial on Kapiti of the "cannibal statesman" (evocatively rendered using inverted colours).
This was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. The song is a colourful plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo — it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation. Director Kerry Brown created vibrant animated backgrounds to match the song’s hip-hop beats. The cameo appearances include Moana Maniapoto’s father, MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave, Mika and various crew members. The Moahunters were Mina Ripia (who went on to her own act Wai) and Teremoana Rapley (from Upper Hutt Posse, who went on to manage King Kapisi).
This documentary tells the story of Moana Ngārimu the sole soldier from the Māori Battalion to be awarded (posthumously) the Victoria Cross during WWII. On 26th March 1943, at Tebaga Gap in Tunisia, the Second Lieutenant took a key position and defended it (as well as injured men) overnight, before being killed in a counter-attack. He was 24. The doco was made for TVNZ for the 50th anniversary of his death. It looks at his life and features moving archive and interviews with Ngārimu's friends and family in Ruatoria, and battalion comrades. Presented by Wira Gardiner.
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.
This NFU film visits the remote Urewera to explore the world of the Tūhoe people. Their independence and identity have been challenged by historical tensions with Pākehā, and now modernity — as ‘children of the mist’ leave for education and jobs (at the mill, in the city). A tribal outpost in Auckland is visited, along with law student James Milroy. At a Ruatoki festival the debate is whether young people should manage tribal affairs. For director Conon Fraser the film (partly narrated by Tūhoe) revisited the subject of his last Looking at New Zealand episode.
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.
Directed by Sam Pillsbury, this 1974 film observes Ralph Hotere — one of New Zealand’s greatest artists — at a moment when excitement is gathering about his work. Lauded as a “classic” by Ian Wedde, the documentary is framed around the execution of a watershed piece: a large mural Hotere was commissioned to paint for Hamilton’s Founders Theatre. Interviews with friends and associates — poets Hone Tuwhare and Bill Manhire, art critics, officials and dealers — are intercut with fascinating shots of Hotere working (including making art by photocopying or 'xerography').
This edition of the Rangatira (‘chief’) series on Māori leaders, looks at academic and politician Dr Pita Sharples, a key figure of the Māori cultural renaissance. The future Māori Party co-leader visits his Takapau home, acknowledges his pivotal time at Te Aute College, talks candidly about the pressures his tireless schedule places on his whānau, demonstrates his cherished taiaha, and goes ten pin bowling. In extensive interviews he enthuses about realising the dream of kaupapa Māori (education, language, prison) cultures, and on the importance of kapa haka.
Māori Television has staked such a claim on Anzac Day coverage that the two have almost become synonymous. The channel began its all-day Anzac coverage with an extended, award-winning broadcast in 2006. Māori Television increased mainstream media interest in its Anzac coverage by cleverly enlisting longtime TVNZ newsreader Judy Bailey to co-host with Wena Harawira. This opening 30 minutes includes the 2006 studio welcome, and live coverage of the 67th annual Auckland Dawn Parade, with narrators Tainui Stephens and historian Stephen Clarke.
Ka Haku Au — A Poet's Lament won Best Māori Language show in 2009. The one-hour documentary drama celebrates the life and songs of Kohine Whakarua Ponika. The largely unsung Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou composer — who couldn't read a note of music, created some of the most popular Māori waiata written, including 'Aku Mahi', 'Kua Rongorongo' and 'E Rona E'. Mostly in Te Reo, the show features Kohine's whānau in dramatic roles, performances and interviews. Kohine's children produced a CD of her waiata, available on iTunes, which in turn inspired the documentary.
Mataku was a bilingual series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori mystique. Described as a Māori Twilight Zone, Mataku was produced by Māori writers, directors and actors, and was a strong international and domestic success. Each episode was introduced Rod Serling-style by actor Temuera Morrison. This excerpt from the first episode, which screened on TV3, portrays two young sisters (Nora and Naera) who are playing in the forest when events take a tragic turn; mysterious putapaiarehe (fairies) are implicated and haunt a troubled grown-up Nora.
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. The long-running series also covers social and political concerns of the day, taking a snapshot of Māori history. Waka Huia is seen as a taonga for future generations and is presented completely in te reo Māori. This first episode is about the language and its survival, and features groundbreaking TV interviews with Sir James Henare and Dame Mira Szaszy.
The series Pounamu focused on the lives and deeds of Māori who played vital roles in the history of Aotearoa, including Te Kooti, Te Puea, Te Whiti, Āpirana Ngata, Guide Rangi and others. Made by the Māori Programmes Department of TVNZ, this episode features a re-enactment of part of the life of Prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana (1873 - 1939). Ratana was a key influence in Māori politics and religion. For years virtually all Māori MPs were followers of the Ratana faith and supported the Labour Party on his instruction. The influence of Rātana remains strong.
TV drama The Governor examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's 'Good Governor' persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ televison's first historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. In first episode 'The Reverend Traitor', Grey arrives to colonial troubles: flag-pole chopping Hōne Heke, missionary Henry Williams, and rebellious Te Rauparaha. Writer Keith Aberdein goes behind the scenes here.
This 1977 film looks at the meeting of the 'two rivers' (Māori and Pākehā, oral and written) of the Aotearoa literary tradition. Rowley Habib is a guide as hui take place and readings of contemporary Māori poetry are set to images of Māori life, from Parihaka and land march photos to Bastion Point, urban scenes and a Black Power hangi. Poets include Mana Cracknell, Peter Croucher, Robin Kora, (a young) Keri Hulme, Brian King, Apirana Taylor, Katarina Mataira, Don Selwyn, Henare Dewes, Rangi Faith, Dinah Rawiri, Haare Williams, Hone Tuwhare, and Arapera Blank.
This heartfelt 1981 hit was the first song sung in te reo to top the NZ singles chart. It was written by Te Arawa elder George Tait for his cousin Deane Waretini, who recorded it with musicians he could only afford to pay in fried chicken. Tait based the melody on Italian Nini Rosso’s 1965 hit ‘Il Silenzio’, but the lyric refers to the linking of Pākehā and Māori cultures at the time of the construction of the Mangere Bridge. The TVNZ video features the less imposing but rather more picturesque valve tower turret, at Wellington’s historic Karori reservoir.
This 1981 NFU film is a tour of the contemporary world of Aotearoa’s tangata whenua. It won headlines over claims that its portrayal of Māori had been sanitised for overseas viewers. Debate and a recut ensued. Writer Witi Ihimaera felt that mentions of contentious issues (Bastion Point, the land march) in his original script were ignored or elided in the final film, and withdrew from the project. He later told journalists that the controversy showed that educated members of minority groups were no longer prepared to let the majority interpret the minority view.
This National Film Unit documentary records the 18-month-long building process of a waka taua (war canoe): from the felling of the trees — opening with an awe-inspiring shot of the giant totara selected by master carver Piri Poutapu — to the ceremonial launch. The waka was commissioned by Māori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and built at Tūrangawaewae Marae. The Harry Dansey-narrated film was significant in showing the importance of the canoe-building kaupapa alongside the everyday lives of the workers (at the freezing works, the pub).
Screen taonga Ramai Hayward has lived many lives, and this Koha special touches on most of them. Still vibrant at age 73, Hayward climbs a favoured apricot tree from her Wairarapa childhood, kickstarting a journey through old haunts and celluloid: the school where she produced a play at 12, the photo studio she commanded during WW2, and the sprawling Mt Eden house that was filmmaking HQ for her and husband Rudall Hayward. Ramai also recalls pioneering films shot in China, an encounter with Chairman Mao, and bullying tactics by the CIA.
By World War II locally-made movies were largely missing in action: Broken Barrier marked the first NZ dramatic feature since 1940. Its production saw makers John O'Shea and Roger Mirams crowd into a Vauxhall with a rickety dolly and two silent cameras, one picked up "from a dead German in the Western Desert". Ditching dialogue for 'spoken thoughts', the pioneering film examines cultural complications in a romance between a Pākehā journalist and a Māori nurse. According to O'Shea, some viewers considered it "a dirty movie" for spurring mixed race relationships.
This homegrown Erin Brockovich story follows former Whakatane sawmill worker Joe Harawira and his long battle to reveal the impact that workplace toxins have had on his community. In the 80s after being afflicted by health issues, Harawira noticed co-workers getting sick. In 1988 he helped found SWAP (Sawmill Workers Against Poisons) and began investigating the effects of exposure to dioxins, a by-product of timber treatment. The Joe versus the mills crusade screened on Māori Television, and won Best Popular Documentary at the 2012 NZ Television Awards.
According to Māori legend Aotearoa was found by the explorer Kupe, chasing a wheke (octopus) from Ra'iatea, Tahiti. This documentary follows Northland building contractor Hekenukumai 'Hector' Busby, as he leads the construction of a waka hourua (a double-hulled canoe), then retraces Kupe's course across the Pacific, back to Rarotonga. Before 'Te Aurere' and her crew depart, Busby heads to Taihiti to learn navigation methods used by the great Polynesian ocean voyagers, then returns home to fell a kauri and begin his contribution to his ancestors' legacy.
Ngāti Porou leader, land reformer, politician and scholar Sir Āpirana Ngata (1874-1950) is celebrated in this episode of a series about leading Māori figures produced by TVNZ's Māori Department. Ngata was seemingly ordained for greatness from birth. The first Māori university graduate, he was an MP and a Minister of Native Affairs, and a firm believer that Māori had to live alongside Pākehā and learn from them. Reforms he instituted helped his people retain their lands and language; and he led a cultural renaissance that revitalised action songs, waiata and haka.
Auckland band Herbs could have released their new album in the comfortable confines of an Auckland nightclub. Instead, they travelled to Ruatoria — a troubled and divided East Coast town where turmoil surrounding a Rastafarian sect had resulted in assaults, kidnappings and firebombed churches. Lee Tamahori and John Day's documentary captures an emotional experience for band and locals as they meet at Mangahanea Marae, in an attempt to shift the focus from disunity to harmony. This footage also yielded the award-winning Sensitive to a Smile music video.
This trippy animation follows the spirit of a person killed in a motorway car accident. The life force (wairua) runs through forest and beaches on its journey to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga). En route it meets tourist buses and other spirits, before reaching the gnarly pohutukawa and making the leap towards Hawaiki-Nui. There's a real native joy in seeing contemporary 80s animation enliven ancient Māori spiritual concepts. Joe Wylie (Toy Love's Bride of Frankenstein) was in charge of the animation team; The Clean provide the soundtrack to the all-stops-out finale.
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.
This documentary looks at the life and work of acclaimed author Patricia Grace. Filmed at home, on marae and in classrooms, Grace discusses her writing process, her Hongoeka Bay upbringing, her children’s books, criticism of her work, and her Māori identity and belonging to the land (a theme of her then-recently successful novel Potiki). In particular she affirms the importance of writing from experience. The film features interviews with publishers and friends, and excerpts from Grace's stories are read and dramatised, including At the River, The Hills and Mutuwhenua.
When she made Mauri, Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to direct, write and produce a feature film. 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. As with Barry Barclay's Ngati, Mauri played a key role in the burgeoning Māori screen industry; the production team numbered 33 Māori and 20 Pākehā, including interns from Hawkes Bay wānanga. NZ art icon Ralph Hotere helmed the production design; Māori activist Eva Rickard played kuia Kara.
Variously praised as a major step forward in indigenous cinema, attacked for overambition, and little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned follow-up to Ngati. This story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees Barclay plunging into issues of control of indigenous culture he would return to in book Mana Tuturu. Feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home. Barclay and his longtime producer John O’Shea had their own differences over Te Rua’s final cut.
This episode in the Pioneer Women series dramatised the story of Hera Ngoungou. In 1874 in Taranaki, Māori kidnapped an eight-year-old Pākehā girl — Caroline “Queenie” Perrett — possibly in retribution for her father breaking a tapu. Her family didn’t see her again until she was 60, when she was a grandmother and had spent more than 50 years living with, and identifying as, Māori. A moving (Feltex award-winning) performance from Ginette McDonald (aka Lyn of Tawa) mixes stoicism with an acknowledgement of good times and a sense of loss for what might have been.
The Governor examined the life of George Grey, providing a whole new angle on traditional portraits of him as the "Good Governor". The six-part historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. This episode — 'He Iwi Kotahi Tatou' (Now We Are One People)' — won a Feltex award for best script. War looms in the Waikato as Māori tribes band together; peacemaker and kingmaker Wiremu Tāmihana (the late Don Selwyn) agonises over the right course of action.
In Haka Māori myth is re-told through a series of stirring haka performances. Men stomp, invoke, and do pūkana (tongue out, eyes wide) 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 Maori Battalion, urban drift and protest. The film is a tribute to the raw power, and art, of haka. Ultimately the Once Were Warriors-like message "is positive because of the fierce, irresistible pride of the performances." Peter Calder, (NZ Herald, 1989).
Made for television in the late 60s, this documentary pursues four young Māori — Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip — as they transition from school, whānau and rural life To Live In the City. The film follows them as they arrive in Wellington and attend a pre-employment course run by The Department of Māori Affairs, which offers accommodation and advice on employment options. Director Arthur Everard later became NZ's Chief Film Censor. A 1991 sequel To Live in the City 24 Years On, travelled across three countries to pick up on the lives of the four, now middle aged.
Muscular and intense, this challenging (and presumably autobiographical) short film boldly brings to life an epiphany, and the impetus to rebuild following dark personal struggle. "Tangaroa has opened and revealed so many emotions, so many stories, so many images for me that 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." Tiki Taane - April 09
Directed by prolific music video maker and now feature film director Jonathan King, this clip won Best Video at the 1997 NZ Music Awards. The sepia-tinged print, colonial photo studio-styled art direction and details (tokotoko and Edwardian suits) are beautifully realised and make for an effective back-drop to the song’s political lyrics. DJ Sir-Vere: “an original Aotearoa classic”
This special 1984 episode of the long-running te reo news programme looks at Waitangi Day. Series founder Derek Fox is presenter; the news item follows the journey north of a train that the Tainui tribe hired to take their people to Waitangi. Topics of protest aired include land rights, the Waikato River and the Māori language. Among those appearing are Sir Hepi Te Heuheu (Tūwharetoa), Sir Robert Mahuta and Pumi Taituha (Tainui), Sir James Henare of Northland, and Sir Kingi Ihaka (Aupōuri).
Marae (now Marae Investigates) is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. First broadcast in 1992 the hour long 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. One of Marae's high points is its post-election mustering of successful Māori candidates — this 2008 edition features the five Māori Party and two Labour Party MPs.