Mairi Gunn began working in the camera department in the mid 80s. Since then she has shot music videos (notably Outer Space for The 3Ds), short films, and the feature-length Gravity & Grace (directed by Chris Kraus). Gunn shot and co-produced award-winning eco-documentary Restoring the Mauri of Lake Omapere, looking at the history and future of a Northland lake.
When the army was rolling up the road I started crying and had to sniff back the tears and say, 'Come on, this is a job girl. Get out there and at it.' That's when I first saw Merata Mita on the back of a truck. She was elevated and I thought, 'That woman knows what she's doing.' Mairi Gunn, in book framing Women, on her first contact with film: Bastion Point, 1978
Sarah is a charismatic, confident 18 year old, about to leave school, head to uni and go flatting. What she doesn't tell many people is that on top of coping with the travails of teenagehood, she also has cystic fibrosis and a life expectancy of 32. A serious lung infection could kill her within days. When her army parents shift to Australia, she is left alone in a new town, responsible for the first time for her own physiotherapy and relentless medication. The spirit-affirming DOCNZ finalist was directed by Anna Cottrell and Jan Jeans, and screened on TV One.
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 2005 documentary tells the story of four New Zealand-born women whose parents come from villages in Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Social worker and photographer Emily Mafile'o, students and mothers Pule Puletaua and Lanni Liuvaie, and playwright Louise Tu’u face the challenges of combining two cultures to forge an identity in Aotearoa — from family, language, food and religion, to flatting and hair cutting rituals. As narrator Sandra Kailali says, "to be true to both is hard work: success in one often comes at a cost to the other."
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."
Twenty eight years after featuring in landmark feminist documentary series Women, five interviewees reveal how their lives have changed. Donna Awatere Huata, Miriam Cameron, Sandi Hall, Aloma Parker and Marcia Russell candidly discuss work, sex, the media and Māori in this 70 minute documentary. Artist Cameron recalls how feminists were seen in the 1970s: "she was a braless, hairy, fat hag". Journalist Russell remembers not being allowed to work past 11pm because she was a woman, while psychologist Parker felt liberated by feminist Germaine Greer's refusal to wear a bra.
Chris Knox has described this love song as being “about as naked as I get” and “utterly heartfelt in a way that ‘Not Given Lightly’ only hints at”. So it’s no surprise the video is perhaps his most personal, with striking images of his long-time partner Barbara Ward’s face, sometimes projected on and merged with Knox’s own image. Mix in some classic low-tech Knox animation and the simple big red heart image of the Beat album cover - and it’s a poignant little gem.
Mrs W. Grant provides insight into the quirky ways of humans, at a place many of us will one day come to know - the retirement home. Mrs W. Grant may be short in duration, but it rounds off with a big punchline. Written and directed by Simon Marler, the film screened in the Homegrown season at the 2000 NZ Film Festival, and was selected for the 2002 Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.
Point Your Toes, Cushla! captures a girl's eye view of the final minutes before she goes on stage in a ballet contest — where one wrong move could be a short cut to humiliation. In this case the danger is heightened thanks to a stage mother whose idea of encouragement is constant meddling (played in scene-stealing brilliance by Alison Wall). Low on dialogue but rich in detail, this film by Simon Marler was invited to a number of overseas festivals, where it won a jury diploma in St Petersburg. It also got general release in Kiwi cinemas.
After the assassination of scientist David Typhon, a cast of interested parties head for his secret lab in New Zealand, pursuing the truth behind rumoured experiments on humans. Among them are rabid protestors, a European infiltrator (Michael Hurst) and the strangely-gifted Cato (Greg Wise). Typhon’s People marked a rare time that writer Margaret Mahy created a story aimed at adult audiences. Blessed with an impressive cast of Kiwis, Brits (Wise, Alfred Molina), and The Castle star Sophie Lee, it sold as both a mini-series and as a 90 minute tele-movie.
Nearly two decades before Mighty Boosh comes this loopy confection. With its missing visage line "I left my face, in outer space" you know this is going to be one trippy song — and the wild and spacey video is totally in keeping with the track. There’s UFO imagery and all sorts of other mad things thrown in, including a dinosaur skeleton and a vacuum cleaner played like a guitar. And it must be one of the few music videos to feature a band member wearing a peggy squares crochet poncho. The clip won Best Music Video at the 1993 NZ Music Awards.
Bill Sevesi was the 'Godfather' of Polynesian music in New Zealand; his impact can be heard in the strum of ukeleles in classrooms across the country. In this 24-minute film Sevesi (born Wilfred Jeffs) narrates his life story, including his childhood in Tonga, making his first guitar, and his role in bringing Pacific Island music into the dance halls of 1940's and 50's New Zealand. Sevesi's bands mixed Hawaiian steel guitar with pop tunes of the day, resulting in sunny hits like 'Kissing Hula'. Watch out for uke player Sione Aleki, Tonga's answer to Jimi Hendrix.
This impressionistic 1989 short film, directed by Mark Summerville, imagines gay tribal life on a fantasy South Pacific Island. Shot by Mairi Gunn, the film ripples with watery blues; a stormy Maggie Rankin soundtrack and whispered narration (from Ivan Davis) backgrounds images of marine sirens, coral crowns, apples, tapa, and entwined seaweed. In the middle of it all — a game of underwater hockey... The short film crossed the seas to gay film festivals in San Francisco, Vancouver and Hamburg, and toured with a British Film Institute selection of shorts.
Herbs visited the troubled East Coast town of Ruatoria in 1987, bringing music and aroha. They left with a documentary and this music video, which shows the band meeting and performing for the locals. Both The Power of Music and the music video were co-directed by Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors ) — in one of his earliest turns as director —and cinematographer John Day (Room that Echoes). The ode to love and harmony was judged Best Music Video at the 1987 New Zealand Music Awards.