Director, Editor, Camera
Briar March released her first feature-length documentary, 2004's Allie Eagle and Me — about artist Allie Eagle — the same year she got a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts. Her global warming documentary There Once Was an Island (2010) was invited to 50+ festivals, and won a raft of awards. After studies at California's prestigious Stanford University and a string of short films, the Fulbright scholar returned downunder, and directed social housing documentary A Place to Call Home. In 2017 she helmed musical short The Coffin Club, which won six million+ views online.
For documentaries I mostly seek out the ones that break conventions, mix mediums, and tell stories in unique and fresh ways. I am especially inspired by documentaries that have a raw and honest quality to them, and make us feel deeply moved in some way. Briar March in an interview with The Lumière Reader, 14 December 2015
A unique Kiwi story about prepping for death has captured the attention of international media. The BBC, The Guardian and National Geographic have all interviewed elderly members of a build-your-own-coffin club, some of whom feature in this musical short film. Members of the Kiwi Coffin Club don sequins and top hats, while singing about what makes their club tick — death is not to be feared, but instead should be celebrated as a normal part of life. A lyric from this offbeat Loading Doc sums up things succinctly: "It's the final verse but life goes on."
In 2012 a number of state houses were relocated from Glen Innes in Auckland to Kaitaia, making way for property developers. A Place to Call Home follows two women at odds with each other, both railing for positive change. Betty Kanuta is an evicted tenant, leading protests against the destruction of her community. Fleur Palmer is purchasing some of the state houses to build a Māori housing development, to help poor families in Kaitaia. Director Briar March's documentary debuted on Māori Television in 2014 as Whare Tapa Whā, before being expanded into a feature-length cut.
Climate change is not just a theory for the people of Takuu, a tiny atoll in Papua New Guinea. Floods and climate-related impacts have forced Teloo, Endar and Satty to consider whether they should stay on their slowly-drowning home, or accept a proposal that would see them move to Bougainville, away from the sea. In this award-winning documentary they also learn more about the impact of climate change from two visiting scientists (an oceanographer and geomorphologist). Director Briar March’s second feature-length doco travelled to over 50 film festivals.
Near the end of his life, renowned English composer Edward Elgar composed some of the greatest music of his career. This film examines the idea that Elgar's deeply emotional Cello Concerto in E Minor was provoked by memories of his first great love, Helen Weaver, who emigrated downunder after their relationship ended. After learning that Weaver's son had been killed fighting in France, Elgar was moved to write a war requiem. The award-nominated film mixed interviews, dramatisations, and a performance of the concerto by cellist Lynn Harrell and the NZ Symphony Orchestra.
Roseanne Liang's documentary Banana in a Nutshell tells the story of her romance with Stephen Harris. After falling in love at university, everything seemed perfect for the pair. Enter Liang’s traditional Chinese parents, and suddenly the prospect of her marriage to a Pākehā got a lot more complicated. In this excerpt, Liang guides viewers through her childhood, romance, and threatened disownment by her parents. Liang added an extended epilogue when her award-winning film hit DVD. The couple's story was later fictionalised for Liang’s 2011 feature My Wedding and Other Secrets.
In the 1970s, New Zealand artist Allie Eagle identified herself as a lesbian separatist and radical feminist. Her often uncompromising work included pro-abortion painting This Woman Died I Care, which was inspired by a photograph of a woman who died from an illegal abortion. In the 1980s, Eagle became a christian. Made in 2004, Briar March's first, feature-length documentary sees Eagle reflecting on her past with a more moderate outlook — she now has mixed feelings about her earlier stance on abortion.
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.