Larry Parr, ONZM, has produced many classic New Zealand films, including Sleeping Dogs and Came a Hot Friday. After launching film and music company Mirage, he made his first foray into movie directing with A Soldier's Tale. After three years as Māori Television's Head of Programming, Parr became television manager then chief executive at Te Māngai Pāho, the organisation which funds Māori radio and TV.
Every film you make is different. Each one has different problems and personalities. It's like a family. Larry Parr
This 2014 documentary celebrates Māori Television’s first decade. It begins by backgrounding campaigns that led to the channel (despite many naysayers). Interviews with key figures convey the channel's kaupapa – preserving the past and te reo, while eyeing the future. A wide-ranging survey of innovative programming showcases the positive depictions of Māoridom, from fresh Waitangi, Anzac Day, basketball and 2011 Rugby World Cup coverage, to Te Ao Māori takes on genres like current affairs and reality TV (eg Native Affairs, Homai Te Pakipaki, Kai Time on the Road, Code, and more).
Actor Rawiri Paratene was 16 years old when he joined Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa (Young Warriors) in the early 1970s. "Those years helped shape the rest of my life," says Paratene in this 2012 Māori TV documentary, directed by Kim Webby. The programme is richly woven with news archive from the 1970s, showing protests about land rights and the Treaty of Waitangi, and a campaign for te reo to be taught in schools. Several ex Ngā Tamatoa members — including Hone Harawira, Tame Iti and Larry Parr— are interviewed by Paratene, who also presents the documentary.
This edition in Prime’s television history series surveys Māori programming. Director Tainui Stephens pairs societal change (urbanisation, protest, cultural resurgence) with an increasing Māori presence in front of and behind the camera. Interviews with broadcasters are intercut with Māori screen content. The episode charts an evolution from Māori as exotic extras, via pioneering documentaries, drama and current affairs, to being an intrinsic part of Aotearoa’s screen landscape, with te reo used on national news, and Māori telling their own stories on Māori Television.
“If this tale is about anything it’s about two words: Kiwi actor.” In this assured, at times offbeat documentary, Ian Mune takes us on a personal tour through his various lives as actor, director, teacher and more. He revisits early theatrical stomping grounds, and talks about how acting with Sam Neill in breakthrough movie Sleeping Dogs taught him “to stop pulling faces”. Mune also reminisces about directing movies comical, terrible and ambitious, and complains about the system of developing local films. There is also rare footage of his performances in 70s TV dramas Derek and Moynihan.
This documentary follows the "seven headed soul monster direct from the shores of Wellington" — Fat Freddys Drop — as they rumble their dub-rich sound through Europe like a Houghton Bay roller. Touring to showcase album Based on a True Story, it features rehearsals and performances, eating Italian kai moana, playing concrete ping pong in Berlin, and (in the fifth clip) a jam with Cliff Curtis. Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe lauds the 'fullas' and Mu explains whanau to German journos. True Story sold 120,000+ copies and dominated the 2005 New Zealand Music Awards.
Solo mum Leeanne Rosser (Jean's Kate Elliott) is rejected by her Christian mother. She tries to stay close to her brother Brent (Jared Turner), 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's novel Crime Story, Fracture was the second feature directed by Larry Parr. Its release was delayed by the collapse of Parr's company Kahukura in 2002. The Press called Fracture "competent, confident and complex".
This short film follows 14-year-old George (Norissa Taia) who has to find her own way to celebrate her birthday when everyone else forgets it. But solace comes from an unexpected place. The film marked director Reina Webster-Iti’s thesis project for her Master of Fine Arts degree at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (the Fulbright scholar was the first Kiwi to study film directing there). Little Things won a Special Mention at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, while young actor Norissa Taia was nominated for an NZ Screen Award. The casting is by Whale Rider's Diana Rowan.
New Zealand's so-called 'cinema of unease' is stretched in new directions in this psychological drama, inspired by real-life interviews with criminals and victim's families. Writer/director Stuart McKenzie's feature debut follows Lisa (Michelle Langstone), a young woman haunted by the rape and murder of a former teenage acquaintance. Lisa's fascination leads her to the victim's parents - and to prison, to interview the charismatic killer (Tim Balme). The result is an intelligent examination of the after effects of violent crime. Shayne Carter provides the soundtrack.
The ‘OE’ is a Kiwi rite of passage, but for those travelling in a Kombi van, the trip can feel “like mixed flatting in a space the size of a ping-pong table” (Peter Calder). In Kombi Nation, Sal sets off to tour Europe with her older sister and friend; they’re joined by a dodgy male and a TV crew, recording the shenanigans. Shot guerilla style after workshopping with the young cast, Grant Lahood’s well-reviewed second feature anticipated the rise of observational ‘reality TV’, but its release was hindered by the collapse of production company Kahukura Films.
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'.
Viewable in full, comedy/drama Hopeless is a portrait of Wellington 20-somethings attempting to get along with crushes, exes, and never weres. Well-meaning Ben (Phil Pinner) finds himself becoming relationship therapist to two friends, despite possessing a dangerously unstoppable mouth. Hamstrung by an advertising campaign highlighting Pinner sitting on a toilet, Hopeless won warm reviews. It also offered impressive movie debuts for Mia Blake (No. 2), Scott Wills (Stickmen) and a hilariously unhinged Adam Gardiner (Agent Anna). Spin-off TV series Lovebites followed.
A wandering fortune teller parks her house truck in Hokitika on a mission to find the daughter she gave up for adoption. This is Magik. One of her first clients, a young happily married chemist's assistant, is seeking a solution to her infertility. This is Rose. Magik, too, is resolved to have another child, but without having to keep the father around. They embark on a joint odyssey for love, sex and pregnancy in writer/director Vanessa Alexander’s feature debut (made when she was 28). David Stratton in Variety praised the film’s "disarmingly sweet treatment".
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell, she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his earlier work, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; although critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film that offered "style and brains".
Classic Kiwi play Joyful and Triumphant followed the Bishop family over four decades, from 1949 to 1989. Written by Robert Lord, it charted changes in New Zealand society by focusing on the minutae of Christmas Day family dynamics. The play was first performed to sellout audiences in 1992, a month after Lord died. It won multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Directed by Peter Sharp (The Fire-Raiser), this TV adaptation features Robyn Malcolm and Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry — plus Catherine Downes and Bruce Phillips, who both appeared in the original production.
A teenage boy (Lance Wharewaka) should be at school, but instead learns about the bush and the old days from his ailing grand uncle (Bill Tawhai). The friendship prepares the boy with the necessary skills for life. Written by poet Hone Tuwhare, Eel marked the drama directing debut of TV3 newsreader and Wild South presenter Joanna Paul."He [Bill] brought a mana with him and has such irreplaceable Māori knowledge," said Paul, who remembered him discussing "how he used bobs to catch eels. He remembers using flax — you can't buy knowledge like that."
A rural raised woman (Dianne Renolds) reconnects with her half sister (Rena Owen) in the city, and learns some hard life lessons. Roimata was the first film directed by then unknown writer Riwia Brown. Brown was initially reluctant to direct the adaptation of her play but, encouraged by producer Larry Parr, she decided that with only one Māori woman director in New Zealand (Merata Mita) there was a need to develop the talent of Māori women in the industry. Brown later wrote the screenplay for Once Were Warriors. Screen legend Ramai Hayward also features.
The night before his granddaughter's birthday, a man who likes having a flutter on the horses (Utu star Anzac Wallace) has a "dream". But which horse is he meant to bet on this time? Raniera gets help from his wife (Erihapeti Ngata) and the local community, to understand what the dream might mean. This edition of the pioneering Māori drama series marked Rawiri Paratene's debut as director. Patricia Grace based the screenplay on her story 'The Dream'; Temuera Morrison has a small role. Viewers can choose whether to watch the episode in Te Reo or in English.
A teenage boy's unorthodox relationship with his father (Wi Kuki Kaa) is explored as he learns about hypocrisy in this E Tipu e Rea edition, written by Bruce Stewart and starring Faifua Amiga as Thunderbox Junior. After establishing a reputation as a highly successful director of commercials, this was Lee (Once Were Warriors) Tamahori's first attempt at the helm of a longer drama. "You tend to get a bit of experience making people laugh when you direct commercials,' he said. "One thing I'm sure of is that people like to laugh at themselves."
In a nod to his theatre training, Whale Rider actor Rawiri Paratene (then better known as a presenter on Play School) unveils three stories to a marae audience. A bored schoolboy (Faifua Amiga) banters with a sarcastic teacher; a musical number features a prostitute (Rena Owen) and her client; and a young girl and her grandfather prepare and wait for the body of her father at the pā. This was the first screen drama directed by Don Selwyn, who argued "what Rawiri is saying in his script is that there are lots of things Māori which are left out of the education system."
In the wake of the Allied invasion of Normandy, US soldier Saul (Usual Suspect Gabriel Byrne) meets Belle, alleged to be a Nazi collaborator. He offers to stay in her cottage as Résistance accusers circle. The tragic tale of moral ambiguity during wartime was adapted from a novel by Kiwi MK Joseph. Filmed in France in 1988, director Larry Parr’s feature debut was troubled by the withdrawal of a French partner and bankruptcy of the US distributor; after film festival showings it screened on NZ television in 1995. French actor Marianne Basler won a 1992 NZ Film Award as Belle.
This report for TVNZ’s flagship 1980s arts show was made to tie in with Nicholas Reid’s book about the renaissance in NZ cinema that began with Sleeping Dogs in 1977. Reid and a who’s who of filmmakers discuss many of more than 50 films made in the previous decade (with Bruno Lawrence ever present) — and ponder the uniqueness (or otherwise) of NZ film. The industry’s fondness for rural and small town settings, and forceful (often conflicted) male leads is explored; and more neglected areas — Māori film making and more of a voice for women — are traversed.
This Depression-era road movie tails teen runaway Kate (Greer Robson) as she tags along with World War I veteran Patrick (Aussie actor Peter Phelps) — himself on the run after assaulting a repo man. The odd couple relationship grudgingly evolves as they often narrowly escape the law, and head north across the southern badlands. Director Sam Pillsbury's on the lam tale won wide praise, with Kevin Thomas in the LA Times calling it "pure enchantment". Robson's award-winning turn as the scamp followed up her breakthrough role in Smash Palace.
Fresh from the larger than life comedy of Came a Hot Friday, Ian Mune made an abrupt turn to horror with this, his second feature as director. Friday alumni Phillip Gordon joins a brat pack of young Kiwi actors; going bush, they meet gun-totting cattleman Bruno Lawrence and a young woman. He is not happy. In this clip the group begin to crack under the strain of being the hunted. Originally written by American Bill Baer, the film was pre-sold to a US investor. Mune was later told by his LA agent that having the dog die did not help its commercial chances in the US.
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
This 1986 Kaleidoscope excerpt visits the world’s premier film festival. Reporter and future Once Were Warriors producer Robin Scholes begins with the official competition – where two years before Vigil vied for the top prize, the Palme d’Or – then focuses on Kiwi films being promoted in the marketplace. She interviews the NZ Film Commission's Lindsay Shelton (selling Arriving Tuesday); Dorothee Pinfold (Dangerous Orphans), asks producer Larry Parr (Bridge to Nowhere) if Kiwi films can survive without tax breaks, and chats to Challenge Films' Henry Fownes and Paul Davis.
There's panic on the streets as 19-year-old tearaway Ska (Matthew Hunter) comes to terms with love and death in Auckland's 80s urban underworld. After an ultimately tragic attempt to 'rescue' his prostitute sister, Ska plots revenge at a rock gig ... with riotous results. Directed by Bruce Morrison when broken glass was still on the ground from the Queen Street riot, the film was inspired by a story from 16-year-old Richard Lymposs. In this teen spirit-infused excerpt, street-fighter Ska saves rich girl Stacy (Kim Willoughby), and meets her classy parents.
This Kaleidoscope profile heralds the arrival of producer Larry Parr on the global film scene, following “the Kid from Raetihi” in his Jaguar from the hometown premiere of Came A Hot Friday (at that point the second most successful NZ film at the box office) to the Auckland offices of his company Mirage. In spite of the shoulder-padded, aspirational 80s framing, Parr talks about more troubled productions (eg. Pallet On The Floor) and the need for less self-conscious local cinema, with disarming honesty. Billy T James and Ian Mune provide character references.
Stunt driver Judd (US Oscar winner Cliff Robertson) and his mechanic Casey (ex child star Leif Garrett) are in NZ racing 'Shaker' — their pink and black Trans-Am — when they're enlisted by scientist Dr Christine Ruben on a fast and furious dash from Dunedin. Unknown to the Yanks, Ruben (Lisa Harrow) has stolen a deadly virus that she's aiming to smuggle to the CIA, and away from the NZ military — who plan to use it for bio warfare! Touted as "fantasy car violence", the chase and stunt-laden Run was one of dozens of films sped out under an 80s tax break scheme.
“The funniest, liveliest, most exuberant film ever made in New Zealand”. So said critic Nicholas Reid, a year after Came a Hot Friday became 1985's biggest local hit. Though Billy T’s loony Mexican-Māori cowboy is beloved by fans, he is but one eccentric here among many — as two scheming conmen hit town, and encounter bookies, boozers, country hicks, nasty crim Marshall Napier, and Prince Tui Teka playing saxophone. Until the arrival of The Piano in 1993, Ian Mune and Dean Parker’s award-loaded adaptation remained NZ's third biggest local hit. Ian Pryor writes about the film here.
Constance centres on a young woman who attempts to escape the staid world of 40s Auckland, by embracing glamour and passion. After meeting a photographer, her aspirations of stardom are brutally fractured. Directed by Bruce Morrison, the movie echoes the style of Hollywood melodrama, while simultaneously critiquing the dream. Donogh Rees was widely praised in the title role as a protagonist who lives in a fantasy world, with one review describing her as “New Zealand’s answer to Meryl Streep”. New York's Time Out called the film "lush and exhilarating".
This 1983 feature explores desire, death, and guilt in a World War II Japanese prisoner of war camp. From Japanese art cinema star Nagisa Oshima (director of the notorious In the Realm of the Senses), its leads were musicians David Bowie (as a defiant captive) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (a conflicted camp commander). The film was mainly shot in Auckland, and partly funded by Broadbank during the tax shelter 80s. Kiwi connections include ex-Broadbank employee Larry Parr as associate producer, first assistant director Lee Tamahori, and actor Alistair Browning as a PoW.
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?
One of those Blighters began life as a doco on Taranaki novelist Ronald Hugh Morrieson, but after interviews with many who knew him, morphed into something more offbeat: a semi-fictionalised tale of Morrieson’s mates reminiscing about his departure, interwoven with highlights from his tales of drunkards and con artists. The dramatisations are from his four novels - all became movies - plus one posthumously published short story. Amidst a cast packed to the rafters with carousing Kiwi screen legends, fellow multi-talented muso Bruno Lawrence plays Morrieson.
Smash Palace is a Kiwi cinema classic and launched Roger Donaldson's American career. Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard in the shadow of Mount Ruapehu. His French wife Jacqui is unhappy there and leaves him, taking up with Al's best mate. When she restricts Al's access to his young daughter, his frustration explodes and he goes bush with the girl, desperate not to lose her too. "There's no road back" runs the tagline. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film "amazingly accomplished".
"I like to pull rabbits out of hats to surprise people". So said young director David Blyth, before unleashing Angel Mine. Inspired partly by the surrealism of Luis Buñuel, Blyth's inventive debut is one of a handful of Kiwi experimental feature films to win mainstream release. Featuring a whitebread suburban couple and their liberated alter egos, the film explores ideas of consumerism, sexuality, the media, and taboo-breaking. The film excited criticism from Patricia Bartlett, and a notorious addition to its R18 certificate: "contains punk cult material."
Smith (Sam Neill, in his breakthrough screen role) is devastated when his wife runs off with his best friend Bullen (Ian Mune). Smith escapes to the Coromandel. Meanwhile, the government enlists an anti-terrorist force to crack down on its opponents. Bullen, now a guerrilla, asks Smith to join the revolution. Directed by Roger Donaldson, this adaptation of CK Stead's novel Smith's Dream heralded a new wave of Kiwi cinema; it was one of the only local films of the 1970s to win a big local audience. This excerpt includes a much talked about scene: a baton charge by government forces.