Quinton Hita's broadcasting career has included stints as DJ, writer, actor and producer. His abilities in te reo first took Hita to radio, then a gig co-presenting TV's Mai Time. He went on to act in Crooked Earth and Shortland Street, where he also did time as a writer and Māori script editor. These days head of Kura Productions, Hita has produced many shows for Māori Television — plus his first feature, reggae tale Mt Zion.
For me, Māori television is the most exciting recent development in the New Zealand television industry. The advent of MTS has made it viable for someone like myself, who has come up through the ranks and been committed to Māori programming for over a decade, to set up and manage his own production company. Quinton Hita
Described by co-creator Jamaine Ross as a sketch show "told from a brown perspective", this Māori Television series pokes the taiaha into life in Aotearoa. Hosted by improv trio Frickin Dangerous Bro – Ross (Māori), Pax Assadi (Persian) and James Roque (Filipino) – the show adds a multicultural 21st Century update to the skit traditions of Billy T James and Pete and Pio. This first episode mines comedy from white people, brown mums, hangi, sports reporting, subtitles, service station staff, and sat nav. NZ Herald’s Gracie Taylor called it "smart, funny, relevant and insanely relatable".
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).
Australian Idol winner Stan Walker made his acting debut in this hit feature, as aspiring singer Turei. Part of a whānau of Māori potato pickers from Pukekohe, he has to choose between duty to job and family (Temuera Morrison plays his hard-working Dad) and letting the music play. His dilemma takes place as reggae star Bob Marley performs in Aotearoa in 1979, offering the chance for Turei's band Small Axe to win a supporting slot at Marley's Western Springs concert. Released on Waitangi Day 2013, Tearepa Kahi's debut feature became the most successful local release of the year.
The award-winning directing debut of actor Tammy Davis (better known as Outrageous Fortune’s Munter) is a South Auckland-set Christmas tale. Young Vinnie (Darcey-Ray Flavell-Hudson of Ghost Chips fame) and Jonah (James Ru) are bored on the mean streets — tagging, BMX-ing — when Jonah peer pressures Vinnie to join him in breaking and entering a house. When they find more than Christmas pressies inside, it tests mateship, moral codes and festive spirit. Crowned Best Film at Flickerfest, Ebony Society was selected for the Berlin and Sundance film festivals.
Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, exploring te ao Māori and pop culture (it was one of the first shows to screen local hip-hop), with presenters speaking in te reo and English. This one hour final looks back over the 12 years of the show, beginning with a roll call of hosts: including Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Quinton Hita, and Teremoana Rapley. Current hosts Olly Coddington and Gabrielle Paringatai look at the show’s impact and legacy, as well as Stacey’s “mad facial expressions”, Patara’s Stubbies and Quinton’s Peter Andre tribute.
A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven by their brutally insistent chief towards safety. Two water-boys are crouched in the bow. One of them risks a bold act of compassion — towards the trophy prisoner tied to the stern. The impressively-produced portage has echoes of Werner Herzog movie Fitzcarraldo, but the story is palpably Māori. Directed by Tearepa Kahi, Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival, and was selected for the Berlin, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand festivals.
A graffiti artist (Ropata Matthews) gets sprung by the cops while tagging. But his younger brother ends up being the fall guy and at the receiving end of long arm of the law. The hero heads into the Tamaki night, and with spray can and marker signs his views on politics (including on one of the infamous Iwi/Kiwi billboards from the 2005 National Party campaign). Ultimately he’ll need more than words to repay his brother. Co-written with Savage, the film was the first dramatic short directed by actor Tearepa Kahi (Mt Zion). It was invited to play at the Berlin and Clermont-Ferrand Film Festivals.
This Wayne Leonard documentary from 2002 goes on a journey to explore what defines Māori humour. The tu meke tiki tour travels from marae kitchens to TV screens, from original trickster Maui to cheeky kids, from the classic entertainers (including Prince Tui Teka tipping off an elephant) through to Billy T James, arguably the king of Māori comedy. Archive footage is complemented by interviews with well-known and everyday Kiwis, and contemporary comedians (Mike King, Pio Terei). Winston Peters and Tame Iti discuss humour as a political tool.
Kete Aronui is a documentary series that features leading contemporary Māori artists. Screening on Māori Television, produced by KIWA Media, and funded through Te Māngai Pāho, its title translates as "basket of knowledge." Each episode provides a portrait: surveying the lives and practices of the artists, often with a focus on how they interact with their whanāu and community. The series surveys artists working in a diverse range of mediums, including dance, photography, theatre, film, poetry, music, tā moko, weaving, and sculpture.
The third feature from writer/director Harry Sinclair (The Price of Milk, Topless Women ...) is a fleet footed anti-romance about sex and infidelity. Love is a game for Ben (Dean O’Gorman), who cheats on girlfriend Emily with ease — until he falls head over heels with unpredictable vixen Chlo (Kate Elliott). When Emily confesses that she too has cheated, Ben self-righteously dumps her and runs to Chlo. But Chlo has a rule: she won’t date available men. To win her love, Ben must be unavailable. This excerpt features much bed hopping and 20-something mat-ters.
When his father dies, soldier Will Bastion (Temuera Morrison) returns home after 20 years. Tradition dictates he take on the mantle of tribal chief, but he's not interested. His brother Kahu (Lawrence Makoare) seizes the opportunity, but he's a drug-dealer with grand plans to get stolen land back. Worried about Kahu's provocative approach, Will must choose whether to face off against his brother. Melding horseback action and indigenous land rights, Crooked Earth marked the first NZ film for director Sam Pillsbury since 1987's Starlight Hotel. Variety called it "handsomely mounted and compelling".
This NZ TV award-nominated documentary tells the story of radio station Mai FM. Founded in 1992 by Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua, its mix of hip hop, r’n’b and te reo soon won ratings success. Original breakfast host Robert Rakete recalls early days when the station was a CD player hooked up to an aerial, while Mai FM's champions argue the station has executed its kaupapa: promoting Māori language and culture to the youth of Auckland, including the breakout phrase, “it’s cool to kōrero!” The introduction by Tainui Stephens was done for Māori TV's doco slot He Raranga Kōrero.
Debuting on TV Four as Tūmeke in 1999, children's show Pūkana was pioneering in its use of te reo. Given a new title when it moved to TV3 in its second year, it later began an epic run on Māori Television. Taking contemporary kids' culture cues, Pūkana features game shows, send-ups, talent quests and music. It emphasises ‘street’ rather than marae-style language. Made by company Cinco Cine, it has won three awards for best show in its category, and two nominations for children’s programme. Past presenters include Mātai Smith, Quinton Hita and Te Hamua Nikora.
Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, exploring te ao Māori and pop culture (it was one of the first shows to show local hip-hop), with presenters speaking in te reo and English. Running for 12 years, it began as a slot on Marae, then screened on Saturday mornings on TV2. Mai Time was a breeding ground for Māori television talent: launching the careers of Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Quinton Hita, Teremoana Rapley and others. It was the brainchild of Tainui Stephens, and was produced by Greg Mayor, then from 2004 by Anahera Higgins.
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.