How Far is Heaven, Christopher Pryor's directorial debut, was described as “stunning” (Sunday Star-Times), “moving” (Listener) and “a genuine triumph” (Capital Times). The film chronicled a year Pryor and co-director Miriam Smith spent in the Whanganui River community of Jerusalem. Prior Pryor credits include multiple collaborations with director Florian Habicht, as both cinematographer and editor. Pryor and Smith followed up How Far is Heaven with small town rugby chronicle The Ground We Won, which won the 2017 NZ Film Award for Best Documentary. Pryor took another gong for his cinematography.
[Jerusalem is a] genuine triumph [...]. Two deeply held belief systems co-exist in Jerusalem, and the beautifully photographed film presents us with multiple dichotomies — Māori and Pākehā, young and old, urban and rural — without taking any sides itself. Destined to be one of the greats. Dan Slevin in Capital Times, 29 August 2012
Described as "visually ravishing" (The Herald's Peter Calder), "strikingly beautiful"(Metro) and "pure social-commentary gold"(The Listener), The Ground We Won is a movie about men, rugby and the heartland. After discovering small town Reporoa en route to their earlier documentary How Far is Heaven, Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith felt it the perfect place to chronicle the changing face of small town rugby. The film premiered in April 2015 during an autumn offshoot of the NZ International Film Festival; it was judged Best Documentary at the 2017 New Zealand Film Awards.
Family, friends and former foe joined Helen Clark before the cameras for this TV3 documentary, which charts her journey from Vietnam protestor through low-polling Labour Party leader, to long-reigning PM and the UN. In this excerpt, Clark and biographer Denis Welch recall how after becoming opposition leader, Clark was advised to make various changes to her hairstyle and presentation. Featuring appearances by John Key, Don Brash and media-shy husband Peter Davis, the two-part doco was helmed by Dan Salmon and artist/director Claudia Pond Eyley.
The Whanganui River settlement of Jerusalem had a moment in the national spotlight when poet James K Baxter lived there in the early 70s — but it is home to a long established Māori community and the Catholic order of the Sisters of Compassion (since 1892). To make this documentary, Miriam Smith and Christopher Pryor spent a year in Jerusalem, following the lives and interactions of the nuns and the Ngāti Hau. North & South called their observations of a world of co-existing contrasts — Māori and Pākehā, young and old, secular and religious — “a cinematic treat”.
Director Alyx Duncan set out to make an experimental documentary about her childhood home. What eventually resulted was this acclaimed and award-winning "fictional essay", her first full length feature. Blurring the line between documentary and drama, she cast her conservationist father and Chinese born step-mother as characters partially based on themselves. As they journey from a small NZ island to a big Chinese city, Duncan examines their cross cultural relationship and explores nostalgia, childhood, dreams, environmentalism, globalisation and the meaning of home.
Amadi is a Rwandan refugee struggling with his new life in New Zealand. Alone, patronised in his menial job (he’s called “Africa” by a workmate), and anxious about rescuing his family from his war-torn ‘home’; he forms an unlikely connection with the prickly lady living next door. Directed by 2009 Spada New Filmmaker of the Year, Zia Mandviwalla, Amadi joined Eating Sausage, Clean Linen, and Cannes-selected Night Shift to form a quartet of Mandviwalla-made shorts exploring cross-cultural collision. It screened at Melbourne and Hawaii international film festivals.
Director Florian Habicht returns to his Northland home turf to chronicle the annual Snapper Classic Fishing Contest, in this full-length documentary. First prize is $50,000, but the participants chase the joy of the cast as much as the purse. The solitary figures on the epic sweep of Ninety Mile Beach provide poetic images, as Habicht teases out homespun philosophy while fishing for answers on love, the afterlife and whether fish have feelings. The soundtrack features 50s style instrumentals from Habicht regular Marc Chesterman, plus singalongs on the sand and at the local pub.
Rubbings from a Live Man is a semi-dramatised biography largely performed by the subject himself — legendary theatre actor and director Warwick Broadhead. He recounts his dramatic life story by adopting a number of personas. The collaboration with director Florian Habicht marked a rare time the camera-wary Broadhead performed on screen. He describes his troubled upbringing as a lot of cover-up and pretence. "Then I went into the world of theatre," he says, "which is cover-up and pretence." Broadhead passed away in January 2015, having predesigned a memorable funeral.
This episode of the Māori Television series about Aotearoa artists follows Māori screen pioneer Merata Mita. Mita produced vital work anchored in culture and community. This extract concentrates on the occupation of Bastion Point. Mita and protest leader Joe Hawke talk of how 25 May 1978 shaped her concerns as a filmmaker: "It was life, it was a transformation". The documentary includes footage from Bastion Point: Day 507, Patu, Mita's feature Mauri and Utu, and sees her running a lab for indigenous filmmakers. The episode was the 17th screened in Kete Aronui's fifth season.
This episode from series five of Kete Aronui, a documentary series featuring Aotearoa's artists that screened on Māori Television, follows the careers of iconic contemporary dancers Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal. For both, training at Te Whaea propelled them into their art, teaching them not only technique but also a way of life. Featuring footage of Royal dancing in Douglas Wright's Forever (1993), the excerpt also includes a dance class with Michael Parmenter, another dance great, and discussion of dance companies Limbs and Black Grace.
Richard Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro — traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. This 2007 episode of the Māori Television arts show sits down with him as he narrates his collaboration with Brian Flintoff and the late Hirini Melbourne — “a magic coalition of separate skills” — and the journey they’ve undertaken to resurrect lost sounds. Inspired by museum objects, literature and song, the trio led the revival of the form in contemporary Aotearoa. Nunns says the pūoro would’ve functioned as “a cellphone to the divine” for tohunga (experts).
Episode four, series four of this Māori artists’ profile series, tracks eminent photographer Fiona Pardington. In this extract Pardington works with her brother Neil, and discusses her life path: her Māori roots, wanting to be a photographer at age six, art school, and the hard road to making a living as an artist. Describing her medium as one of mood and depth, her search is for a balance of knowledge and wairua. Includes images of her stunning interpretations of cultural taonga, such as specimens of esteemed (and extinct) huia birds, and carved pounamu.
This appropriately moody music video saw director Florian Habicht (Kaikohe Demolition) collaborating with musician Steve Abel, who had contributed to the soundtrack of Habicht's movie Woodenhead. The video moves between two puppets on a lonely plain, and close-ups of Abel and the guest vocalist who joins him on the track: Kirsten Morrell from Goldenhorse. The song is taken from Abel's award-winning debut album Little Death (2006). Habicht and Abel would work together again on the video for Abel's song 'Best Thing'. The puppets were created by Kiwi Oliver Smart.
Director Florian Habicht's follow-up to his offbeat fairytale Woodenhead is a documentary tribute to a community of characters, drawn together by a desire to jump in a car for the local demolition derby. Behind the bangs, prangs, and blow-ups, the heart and soul of a small Far North town — Kaikohe — is laid bare in this full-length film, thanks to a cast of fun-loving, salt of the earth locals. Kaikohe Demolition won rave reviews, and The Listener named it one of the ten best films of 2004. Filmmaker Costa Botes writes about the film's characters and qualities here.
Innocent Gert, who works in a rubbish dump, can't believe his luck when he's ordered by his boss to take his beautiful mute daughter, Princess Plum, to meet her prospective husband. The two set off on a mythical quest through a fairytale Far North landscape. On the way they encounter freaks and monsters, and experience danger and romance. In an unusual reversal, the voices and music for Woodenhead were all recorded before filming. This surreal second feature from Elam art school grad Florian Habicht took Aotearoa to the arthouse with unprecedented weirdness and wonder.