Samoan Kiwi Beulah Koale first discovered acting as a way to skip classes, then appeared in short films Manurewa and Suni Man. After doing a guest spot on Shortland Street in 2012, he won a recurring role. In 2014 Koale starred in big screen crime drama The Last Saint, as a young man who becomes a drug courier to help his family. He followed it with post-apocalyptic TV series The Cul De Sac, then won acclaim for film Thank You for Your Service, in which he played an American Samoan soldier struggling to adapt to life after fighting in Iraq. Two years later he joined the team of cops on long-running series Hawaii-Five-O.
I did television and film and theatre in New Zealand. I thought that was as big as I was going to get. I never even tried to learn how to do an American accent because I thought there was no way people in America would hire someone like me. Then it happened, and I had to learn it very quickly. Beulah Koale in The Los Angeles Times, 25 October 2017
Writer/director Tusi Tamasese won multiple awards for his first feature, Samoan drama The Orator - O Le Tulafale. This New Zealand-set follow-up involves a Samoan father whose daughter Ilisa (Shortland Street's Frankie Adams) returns home, pregnant and badly beaten. Uelese Petaia (star of Albert Wendt adaptation Sons for the Return Home) is the boxer turned baker, in a tale of family, redemption and revenge. One Thousand Ropes debuted in the Panorama section of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. The clip captures the recording of the movie's soundtrack in a Wellington chapel.
The Cul de Sac is set in a world where the adults have disappeared, and waves of energy destroy anyone caught outdoors. Feisty teen Rose (Greta Gregory) leads a small group of family and friends. Echoing the storytelling style of Lost, the series teases viewers with its gradual reveal of what in hell is going on. Created by Stephen J Campbell (Amazing Extraordinary Friends), the half-hour sci fi adventure ran for three seasons, each with six episodes. The cast included Molly Leishman (Wilde Ride), Peter Feeney as the scientist dad, and (in season one) KJ Apa and Beulah Koale.
The Cul de Sac presents an apocalyptic world where the adults have disappeared. In this first episode, Rose (Greta Gregory) realises something is very wrong when she leaves home. Meanwhile at the local high school, dictator in the making Doni (Simon Mead) refuses to let anyone inside the building. Rose's sister (Molly Leishman) is in danger of having a medical emergency, Jack (Riverdale's KJ Apa) proves he isn't completely useless, and a dog goes rabid. Created by Stephen J Campbell (Amazing Extraordinary Friends), the sci-fi adventure spanned three seasons.
Crime thriller The Last Saint puts Auckland’s underworld squarely in its sights. Beulah Koale (who played the killer in short film Manurewa) stars as teenager Minka, who gets caught up in drugs and romance while working for psychotic P-dealer (Joe Naufahu). The first movie directed by Shortland Street actor Rene Naufahu, this "searing local thriller" (Sunday Star-Times) was funded largely by private investors, as well as a Pledge Me campaign. Calvin Tuteao and Jared Turner are part of an impressive cast; the soundtrack includes contributions from P-Money, Six60 and Katchafire.
When the All Blacks beat France to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, it eased New Zealand's angst of more than 20 years without a title. It also created an unlikely hero in Stephen 'Beaver' Donald. A run of injuries led to a call-up for the fourth choice first five (he was whitebaiting when contacted). When Aaron Cruden was injured, Beaver came off the reserves bench and kicked a decisive penalty. Danny Mulheron's Moa award-nominated TV movie relives the reject-to-redemption fairytale. David de Lautour (Westside) plays Donald. This excerpt includes the kick itself.
Service station worker Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Māori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. Directed by Curtis Vowell (his debut) the script was adapted by Henderson from her theatre monologue, and shot in 20 days via the NZFC’s low budget Escalator scheme. The twist on the Hine-nui-te-po myth was a breakout hit of the 2013 NZ Film Festival. NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry raved: “one of the freshest New Zealand films to come along in years”.
This TV3 drama series follows a troubled Auckland cop (Oscar Kightley). Solo parent to a teenage daughter following his wife’s suicide, Detective Sergeant Harry Anglesea is thrown into a murder investigation and an underworld of P and gang violence. Harry, not a stickler for the rules, marked a rare dramatic turn for Kightley. Sam Neill played his boss. Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Written by Kightley, director Chris Dudman and veteran South Auckland detective Neil Grimstone, Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in prime time.
This first episode of this 2013 crime drama begins with a meth-fuelled bank heist gone very wrong. Harry is a troubled Samoan-Kiwi detective (played by Oscar Kightley, a million miles away from bro' Town) pursuing justice in South Auckland. Sam Neill, in his first role on a Kiwi TV series, plays Harry’s detective buddy. Off the case, Harry struggles with his teen daughter in the wake of his wife’s suicide. The Chris Dudman-directed series screened for a season on TV3. Broadcaster John Campbell tweeted: “Not remotely suitable for kids. But nor are many excellent things.”
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.
Fresh is a popular TVNZ youth show with a focus on Pasifika arts, culture, events and sport. Since 2011 its “Poly-platter” of pacific flavours has ranged from singer Ria Hall and sports star Sonny Bill Williams, to Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa and hip hop choreographer Parris Goebel. It screens on Saturday mornings on TV2. Fresh regulars have included Robbie Magasiva, Samoan 'sisters' Pani and Pani, and the Fresh Housewives. The show is produced by Tiki Lounge Productions, the team behind online PI social network Coconet.tv.
Music video director Sam Peacocke's confronting first short film reimagines the events that took place around the robbery of a Manurewa liquor store in 2008, in which owner Navtej Singh was tragically murdered. The film takes a kaleidoscopic perspective on colliding South Auckland lives, notably in an — almost unbearably — tense hold-up scene. Largely shot with non-actors, the production was self-funded. The result was selected for the Melbourne and Berlin Film Festivals; at Berlin it won the Crystal Bear for best short in the Generation 14plus youth section.
When Robert meets his Samoan grandfather ('Granda') for the first time, things are awkward. He can't say Robert's name properly, and makes "rude" noises when he eats. Director Marina Alofagia McCartney's first short film is a gentle tale about reaching out across generations and culture. It focusses on Robert (Kahukura Royal) as his first impression thaws, and affection grows. In 2010 Granda was named audience favourite at Pollywood, a Kiwi festival for Pasifika Films. McCartney's follow-up Milk & Honey was nominated for Best Short at the 2012 NZ International Film Festival.
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.