Marshall Smith was nominated for a Silver Scroll songwriting award in 2004, while he was part of band The New Freedom. Around the same time, he and musician Tom Fox set up Auckland music and sound company The Sound Room, and began composing soundtracks for clients in Aotearoa and overseas. Their work includes documentaries (Hip Hop-eration, NHNZ's Big Pacific), short films, and many commercials (including ads for Coca Cola and Porsche). Smith also co-founded the Screen Composers Guild of New Zealand, presented Lotto draws for three years, and has recorded under the name Marshmellow.
I like the sense of fulfilment, freedom, variety, the people and the travel. Oh, I also get to work from home in my pyjamas... Marshall Smith on what he most enjoys about running a music composition company, The NZ Herald, 27 July 2012
This documentary chronicles the story of Waikato women’s refuge Te Whakaruruhau, and shines a light on a subject not often shown in mainstream New Zealand media: family violence in rural areas. Written "by the women of the Waikato", the film features interviews with the women behind the refuge, who have created a space for victims of domestic violence, safe from danger. Directed by Richard Allan Litt, the documentary screens in Kiwi cinemas from March 2018, with proceeds going to the refuge. Te Whakaruruhau, founded in 1987, was the first Māori women’s refuge.
Feature documentary In the Zone tells the story of American Terrance Wallace. In 2011 he launched The InZone Project; its aim was to transform the lives of disadvantaged Māori and Pasifika teens by moving them into supportive homes, in zones that enable them to receive opportunities at top Auckland schools like Auckland Grammar. Director Robyn Paterson (Finding Mercy) follows Wallace as he attempts to take the programme back to his hometown of Chicago. Paterson developed the project after winning a 2015 pitching competition at Kiwi documentary festival Doc Edge.
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."
Hip Hop-eration chronicles a mission to bust some moves, and demonstrate that ageing need not be a barrier to joy. The stars of this documentary are a group of self-deprecating, young at heart Waiheke Islanders — some in their 90s — who head to Las Vegas to compete in the World Hip Hop Championships. Hip Hop-eration won Moa awards for Best Documentary and Documentary Director, plus rave reviews from Metro, The Dominion Post and the Herald's Francesca Rudkin; Rudkin called the film heartwarming:"full of laughs, colourful characters and Kiwi attitude".
At the age of eight, filmmaker Robyn Paterson (white) and her best friend Mercy (black) greeted Comrade Robert Mugabe with flowers at a Zimbabwe air-force base. They became poster children of the new Zimbabwe. But the country was soon to descend into turmoil under Mugabe’s rule, and Paterson’s family was forced to flee to New Zealand. This documentary traces Paterson’s return to her birthplace a generation later, and a high-risk undercover search to find the fate of her childhood friend. Mercy won Paterson the Best Emerging Director Award at 2013 DocEdge Festival.
In this 2012 short film, young Samoan Kiwi Suni (Beulah Koale) has to choose between his family — and its traditional values — and gang life. His wayward cousin pressures him towards the gang. Ōtara actor Koale had a breakout role in short film Manurewa (2010), and would go on to star in feature The Last Saint, before winning roles in America (Hawaii Five-O). Suni Man was directed, written and produced by Hamish Mortland, inspired by a true story he heard from a schoolmate. The film screened as an education resource in South Auckland community centres.
The 1978 death of Kerry Hamill in Khmer Rouge prison S21 provided a tangible link for New Zealanders to a genocide that claimed two million Cambodian lives. Thirty years later, this acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Annie Goldson follows Hamill’s brother Rob — an Olympian and Trans-Atlantic rowing champion — as he attends the war crimes trial of Comrade Duch, one of the architects of the slaughter. Hamill is there to make a victim impact statement, but also to understand how his brother died, confront the man responsible, and discover if forgiveness is possible.
This short documentary follows refugee Mitchell Pham from a Vietnam War prison camp to a new home in New Zealand. Director Sally Tran — a 2013 Killer Films Internship Scholarship recipient — uses an interview with Pham as an adult, and live action mixed with animation to recreate the harrowing childhood journey. DIY more than CGI, the animation process was based on Vietnamese folded paper-craft. Requiring 20 volunteers, the 10,000 animated pieces of paper (and a rich score from The Sound Room) provide suggestive weight to Pham’s story of survival and courage.
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.