Actor [Ngāti Hune and Ngāpuhi]
Miriama McDowell’s screen arrival was affirmed by a trio of roles in 2005: her award-nominated turn as one of the sisters in Toa Fraser film No. 2, a policewoman on TV's Interrogation, and a starring role as an unfortunate WWII wife in anthology series Taonga. Since then the Toi Whakaari graduate has co-starred in sci-fi thriller This is Not My Life, mini-series Hope and Wire and acclaimed movie The Dark Horse. Hope and Wire saw her nominated for her role as a woman who refuses to stay in post-quake Christchurch; she later won a Moa Award after co-starring as a pregnant woman in 2015 film The Great Maiden's Blush.
She's the one Alec just can't forget — he's always coming back to her. She's a constant reminder for him that there are real people and real feelings out there. She becomes his sidekick and they set out to solve the mystery of Waimoana. Miriama McDowell, on her role in This is Not My Life
For this 2017 feature film, eight Māori women each directed a 10 minute segment of events circling around the tangi of a boy named Waru. Each director had a day and a single shot to capture their take on the context behind a tragedy. After its debut at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival, Waru won a rush of social media attention, and screened at the Toronto and ImagineNATIVE festivals. The Hollywood Reporter praised it for bringing "a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a suspenseful mystery". Waru was produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton.
Inspired by Witi Ihimaera's Bulibasha, Mahana saw director Lee Tamahori making his first film on local soil since a very different family tale: 1994's Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison stars as a 60s era farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have absolutely nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and son Simeon sets out to find out how the feud first started. The powerhouse Māori cast includes Nancy Brunning (who is included in the interview clips) and Jim Moriarty. Mahana debuted at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, before NZ release.
In this mockumentary series, two metrosexual Māori males have six months to find a Māori bride in order to win a hefty inheritance. Created by writer Dane Giraud, the show mines comedy from being a modern Māori in the city. NZ Herald reviewer Alex Casey praised it for adding "much-needed fresh perspectives to New Zealand television comedy." The cast of the Kiel McNaughton-directed hit includes Cohen Holloway (Boy), Amanda Billing (Shortland Street), Rachel House (Whale Rider) and Siobhan Marshall (Outrageous Fortune). Jennifer Ward-Lealand narrates.
The Great Maiden's Blush hinges on two people from very different backgrounds: a girl-racer in prison for manslaughter (Hope and Wire's Miriama McDowell), who plans to adopt out her baby, and a failed classical pianist (Renee Lyons) whose own baby is due for a risky operation. Each must confront their own secrets in order to move forward. Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader's acclaimed third movie continues an interest in character-rich stories where "big themes play out in modest circumstances". It won awards for McDowell and Best Self-Funded Film at the 2017 NZ Film Awards.
The Dark Horse is the story of a Māori ex-speed chess champ who must “overcome prejudice and violence in the battle to save his struggling chess club, his family and ultimately, himself”. Genesis Potini has a bi-polar disorder; his nephew Mana (Boy’s James Rolleston) faces being pressed into a gang. A near unrecognisable Cliff Curtis won international acclaim as Potini. James Napier Robertson's acclaimed second feature was picked to opened the 2014 Auckland and Wellington Film Festival, and scored six Moa awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor.
Described by co-star Neill Rea as the "little show that could", The Brokenwood Mysteries has screened in over 15 countries and and involved a long run of fictional murders. Each feature-length episode of this Prime TV crime drama is a standalone murder mystery, set in a small Kiwi town. Neill Rea (Scarfies) stars as veteran detective Mike Shepherd, who works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (played by Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons). Backing up the pair are Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson from Funny Girls) and Russian pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda).
When fishermen reel in a dead body in small town Brokenwood, Detective Mike Shepherd can't help but crack a joke: "I love a catch. Probably the one they wish had got away." In this excerpt from very first episode 'Blood & Water', new cop in town Shepherd (Neill Rea of Scarfies fame) pairs up with Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons) to try to figure out what happened to drunk ol' Nate Dunn (Chris Sherwood). The detectives became a permanent team as the Prime TV series continued, working on deaths that plague the area.
This docudrama follows an imaginary news reporter who travels back in time to cover the days leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing on 6 February 1840. Dropping the usual solemnity surrounding Aotearoa’s founding document, it uses humour and asides to camera to evoke the chaos and motives behind the treaty. Written by Gavin Strawhan, with input from novelist Witi Ihimaera, What Really Happened screened on TVNZ for Waitangi Day 2011. Its nominations at the Aotearoa TV Awards included Best Drama, director (Peter Burger) and actor Jarod Rawiri (who played Hōne Heke).
Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), the matriarch of a Fijian family living in Auckland, feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. She demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast, at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren — Soul, Charlene, Hibiscus, Erasmus, and Tyson — reluctantly turn up. But tiffs send the day into chaos. Nanna calls the whole thing off. This lovo-warmed love letter to his Mt Roskill hometown was the debut film for director Toa Fraser (Dean Spanley). It screened at many festivals; it won the World Cinema audience award at Sundance in 2006.
A taonga in Māori culture is a treasured thing, whether tangible (eg. a letter, photo, or heirloom) or intangible (eg. a family story). This series uses taonga — whose protection is enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi — as a starting point to tell dramatic Māori stories from the last 150 years. Weaving documentary techniques with re-enactments, Taonga features the stories of Guide Sophia, Sir Maui Pomare and Penetito Hawea among others. It screened on Māori Television in 2006, and featured actors Ian Mune, Rawiri Paratene, Taungaroa Emile and Miriama McDowell.
Set in a Grey Lynn fish'n'chip shop, this clip delivers a killer kai moana concept, when it's revealed that the greasy takeaway is merely a front for the club downstairs. Winner of Best Music Video at the 2006 Vodafone NZ Music Awards, the video features a host of cameos in addition to the members of Fat Freddy's Drop: including Danielle Cormack, Ladi6, John Campbell and Carol Hirschfeld. It was directed by Mark 'Slave' Williams, sometime MC for the band. The track was part of Fat Freddy's first studio album Based on a True Story, one of the biggest-selling in Kiwi history.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
A taonga in Māori culture is a treasured thing, whether tangible (eg a letter, photo, or heirloom) or intangible (eg a family story). Produced by Greenstone Pictures and screening on Māori Television, the Taonga series wove documentary techniques with re-enactments, to tell stories of taonga. This full-length episode sees the arrival of a shocking telegram for a woman (Miriama McDowell from The Great Maiden's Blush) whose husband (Taungaroa Emile) is away fighting during World War ll. Michael Bennett was nominated for a Qantas Award for Best Non-Drama Direction for the episode.
One summer’s day, teenaged Jayde (Atarangi Manley) and Wiremu (Darcey-Ray Flavell-Hudson) tag along with their older siblings on a trip to a local swimming hole. Young passions ignite by the Rotorua hot pool. Later tragedy occurs and one of them faces lost innocence and the ritual of tangi, while bearing a secret. Michael Bennett’s short — cutting between the day and its aftermath — was shot in his Te Arawa home turf. It was selected for the 2005 Berlin Film Festival. 'Mu' was an early role for Flavell-Hudson (Mt Zion, Ghost Chips ad fame).
The Ballantyne's Department Store fire in November 1947 claimed 41 lives and left a lasting scar on Christchurch — the city’s biggest single disaster until the 2011 earthquake. The events of that spring day are explored in this short film which intersperses archive footage with a fictional account of workers and customers in the tailoring department as the dramas of everyday life are suddenly overwhelmed. It was directed by Aileen O’Sullivan, shot by Alun Bollinger and made with the NZ Drama School graduating class of 2002 (with music by Gareth Farr).
Described as a "Māori Twilight Zone", Mataku was a series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori experience with the "unexplained". Two South Pacific Pictures-produced series screened on TV3; a later series screened on TV One in 2005. Each episode was introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style. The bi-lingual series was a strong international and domestic success; producer Carey Carter: "Our people are very spiritual ... and here we are ... turning it into stories so that the rest of the world can get a glimpse of that aspect of our culture."
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.