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 Inside.
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
This Te Ao Māori take on Hunger Games follows bushman Owen Boynton as he straps on his bow and travels across Aotearoa, to explore traditional hunting techniques and skills, and the kaupapa behind them. In this first episode Tūhoe-bred Boynton returns to his Waimana hometown to pay his respects to the forest, and hunt with whānau to provide kai for their community. On the riverbed the dogs round up a couple of deer, and he gets an anatomy lesson from his uncle. Toa Hunter-Gatherer was produced by Julian Arahanga and Awa Films for Māori Television.
This acclaimed Māori Television series saw Kiwi musicians teaching bars behind bars — working with prisoners to compose and record songs, drawn from their life experiences. In this opening episode from the third season, Anika Moa, Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi head to Christchurch’s men’s and women’s prisons. For Moa, Ladi6 and Scribe, Christchurch is their "music whakapapa". For Scribe it is a reminder of earthquake tragedy. The jail itself revives memories of childhood visits to his father (an upbringing which the two explored in 2015 play The White Guitar).
Inspired by the work of Spring Hill Prison music therapist Evan Rhys Davies, Julian Arahanga convinced the Department of Corrections to allow him to film inmates making songs at Rimutaka and Arohata prisons — with mentoring from musicians Anika Moa, Warren Maxwell, Maisey Rika, and Ruia Aperahama. In later seasons Moa was joined by Don McGlashan, Annie Crummer and Laughton Kora (at Paremoremo and Auckland Women’s); then by Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi (Christchurch). The acclaimed Māori TV series spawned two albums, and international interest.
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 it 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. Actor/singer Francis Kora plays Pohe.
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".
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.
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'.
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. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of 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 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.
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 culture clash story by Witi Ihimaera inspired this comic drama, written and directed by Larry Parr. Set in the 1940s — perfectly evoked in the mist-shrouded Taranaki hamlet of Whangamomona — the short film focuses on the conflict between a local tohunga, Mr Hohepa, and feisty Pākehā Mrs Jones (Annie Whittle), as viewed by the young boy who helps deliver her mail and groceries (Julian Arahanga, in his screen debut). The locals think Hohepa has placed a makutu (or curse) on Mrs Jones; but could more basic human emotions — beyond the boy’s experience — be at work?