Christchurch-raised Tearepa Kahi began acting and playing sax as a teen, then spent two years in a theatre troupe run by Jim Moriarty. He went on to study history and Māori at Auckland University, and act — including landmark te reo film The Māori Merchant of Venice. Kahi has directed documentaries (Poi E: The Story of Our Song), award-winning shorts, and 2012 hit Mt Zion, starring singer Stan Walker.
... Kahi serves it all up with obvious love, a quietly watchful pace and a sunbaked visual style. The result is a smart, finely-observed, heartfelt drama of good humour and decent tunes against an authentic local setting. Russell Baillie, reviewing movie Mt Zion in the NZ Herald, 6 February 2013
Taika Waititi's fourth feature is the tale of a city kid and a grumpy uncle on the run. Raised on hip hop and state care, Ricky (Shopping's Julian Dennison) goes bush with his foster uncle (Sam Neill), with the authorities on his tail. Wilderpeople is based on Barry Crump book Wild Pork and Watercress. Keen to recapture the style of classic screen yarns like Came a Hot Friday, Waititi's aim was a funny, accessible adventure. The result began winning rave reviews when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, before becoming New Zealand's biggest ever local hit.
Poi E: The Story of Our Song tells the story behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic pop songs. Led by Dalvanius Prime, the Patea Māori Club single was released soon after the closure of the town’s freezing works. Conquering disinterest from record labels and radio, Poi E became New Zealand's highest selling single in 1984. Written and directed by Tearepa Kahi (Mt Zion), the "warm, funny, touching" documentary (NZ Herald) features interviews with those involved, and famous fans (eg Taika Waititi). Poi E won applause after premiering at the opening of the 2016 Auckland Film Festival.
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.
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 Herzog’s 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 Berlin, Edinburgh, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand fests.
A graffiti artist 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 eponymous 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), but ultimately he’ll need more than words to repay his brother. Co-written with Savage, the film was actor Tearepa Kahi’s directing debut; it won selection to Berlin and Clermont Ferrand Film Festivals.
Eddie (Stacey Tukariri) is a 10-year-old skater who, like many a suburban dreamer, has his sights set on riding the steepest slope in town (the Bullock Track in a pre-gentrified Grey Lynn). Although his father isn't happy about it, Eddie's hero is his teen neighbour Duane: wheelchair bound after wiping out on ‘the hill’. Directed by Tainui Stephens — his first dramatic short — and written by Brett Ihaka, the young Māori odd couple story screened at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals. Future Mt Zion director Tearepa Kahi plays Duane, and the score is by hip hop legend DLT.
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 eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show 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, and in 2012 the show celebrated its 20th anniversary making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!”.