Sound recordist Dick Reade's list of awards includes gongs for his work on The Navigator, Mt Zion, After the Waterfall and When Love Comes — and an Emmy nomination for TV’s Buggin’ with Ruud. In 2007 he was named SPADA/Onfilm industry champion. After more than a decade with state television, Reade went freelance in the early 80s. These days he runs his own studio in West Auckland.
There’s no one way to do things, only guidelines, so it’s good to try for different effects and see what works…I’ve never been able to do what I’ve been told – ever since I was about five there’s always been that questioning rebel thing. Dick Reade in Onfilm, June 2008, page 22
Director Vea Mafile'o's Tongan father Saia drives this deeply personal film. Vea raises thorny questions about the relationship between money and the church in Tongan culture, questions that caused her Kiwi/Tongan family pain. Pensioner Saia Mafile'o's dedication to raising large amounts of money for Misinale (an annual church celebration) upset his children and splintered his marriage. Mafile'o returns to Tonga with her father and siblings, to attend the Misinale and learn why the financial sacrifice matters to him. The documentary debuted at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.
Reggae band Herbs hold a special place in the history of New Zealand pop music, mixing feel-good rhythms with burning social and environmental issues. The original line-up consisted of five musicians from across the Pacific. Their string of hits in the 80s and 90s helped Aotearoa forge a new Pacific identity. For this documentary director Tearepa Kahi (Poi E: The Story of Our Song, Mt Zion) captures the band's reunion, and interviews key members about the protest movement that lit a fire under the group, their chart topping success, and famous collaborations.
Movie Vermilion follows composer Darcy (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) over a summer month, as her daughter prepares to marry. Darcy sees colours when she plays musical notes, but after seeing the colour vermilion she is prompted to secretly make her own plans. The exploration of motherhood, family and female friendship marks the feature debut of director Dorthe Scheffmann (Cannes-selected 1995 short film The Beach). The ensemble cast includes Theresa Healey, Goretti Chadwick (Game of Bros), and newcomer Emily Campbell. The production team were 85 per cent female.
Merata Mita argued forcefully that the voices of Māori and of women were sorely lacking on-screen. Best known for her Springbok tour documentary Patu!, the straight-talking director and actor later set up an indigenous filmmaking programme in Hawai'i, and spoke about indigenous film around the globe. After Mita passed away in 2010, her youngest son Hepi began making a film about her — discovering new sides to his mother as he trawled through footage, and interviewed his older siblings. The feature-length documentary debuted at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
Director Dustin Feneley’s first feature is set in a wintry Central Otago landscape. It charts the relationship between a man on parole (Kieran Charnock from The Rehearsal and short Cub) and a woman just out of a psychiatric facility (Arta Dobroshi, from Belgian film Lorna’s Silence). A highly successful crowdfunding campaign raised $125,000 towards the film. Stray won the first of many awards (for actor Charnock) when it premiered at the 2018 Moscow International Film Festival. Critics found it "compelling and haunting" (The NZ Herald) and "indelibly beautiful" (Stuff).
Paul Callaghan (1947 - 2012) was an internationally celebrated scientist, and a passionate advocate for Aotearoa. He was a popular science communicator (including a radio show with Kim Hill), campaigned to make New Zealand “a place where talent wants to live”, and championed the idea of a predator-free New Zealand. Shirley Horrocks' documentary focuses on the field that Callaghan became a world expert in — magnetic resonance — and interviews Callaghan's family, colleagues, students and friends. The film was invited to play at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
This feature documentary from director Pietra Brettkelly (A Flickering Truth) follows Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei as she aims to join the exclusive world of Paris’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Brettkelly traces the designer’s Cinderella story from Mao’s China to Paris fashion shows and the Met Gala fundraiser event in New York, beginning with pop star Rihanna modelling a 27kg canary yellow gown in 2015. Yellow is Forbidden was selected for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival (the first Kiwi film to screen in its main competition) and the NZ International Film Festival.
Hibiscus (Suivai Pilisipi Autagavaia, from short Manurewa) and no nonsense Ruth (Anna-Maree Thomas) have been friends since school. But now Hibiscus is finishing university, and her domineering mother doesn't want boyfriends getting in the way. So Hibiscus enlists Ruth's help, to handle any temptations. Hibiscus & Ruthless marks the second movie for writer/director SQS (Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa) — who won keen audiences in 2015 for his first feature, Samoan-set comedy Three Wise Cousins. Stuff reviewer James Croot praised the new film's casting, comedy and pathos.
In this feature film, Tama, a distressed young man, becomes entwined with five families coping with suicide on a journey from Parihaka to Te Rerenga Wairua. A mysterious woman, Hine-nui-te-pō, prompts Tama to confront the finality of death. Director Paora Joseph (Children of Parihaka) mixes drama and documentary, in the hope his film will provoke kōrero around mental health, and offer a pathway through darkness. Niwa Whatuira (The Dark Horse) and newcomer Hera Foley play the lead roles. Māui’s Hook was set to debut at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
Carl (Australian actor David Wenham) and Julie (Sia Trokenheim, from TV series Step Dave) are an estranged couple whose teen daughter Eve has gone missing in India. Their search takes them from Auckland to New Delhi and the Himalayas, where culture clashes and old wounds frustrate their efforts. The film was directed by Indian Pan Nalin (the acclaimed Samsara) and written by Kiwi Dianne Taylor. Known World was the first product of a New Zealand-India co-production treaty. The team of producers includes Kiwis Kristian Eek and Matthew Horrocks.
The first feature from Jackie van Beek was born from the idea of three very different people in a house, after a crisis. The central character is teen runaway Tia, who after a car crash moves in with a family who are connected to the accident. To find their lead actor — newcomer Gloria Popata — writer/director van Beek and casting director Yvette Reid did an epic casting call across Aotearoa. Reid auditioned 340 people. Van Beek is best known as an actor herself, often in comic roles. She directed seven shorts, before The Inland Road was invited to debut at the Berlin Film Festival.
When German director Peter Falkenberg moved to Christchurch in the 1970s, he faced disdain from conservative locals after setting up avant-garde theatre company Free Theatre. The group was still going strong almost four decades later. Director Shirley Horrocks spent six years capturing their colourful and controversial history, and filming them in action. Interviewees in the 76 minute documentary include director Stuart McKenzie, who reflects on how out there the group was in the early 1980s, and founding member Nick Frost, who recalls when people tried to shut them down.
Head Like A Hole (aka HLAH) were a clap of heavy metal thunder over the jangly chords of the early 90s New Zealand music scene. Known for unhinged, "apeshit" live shows and outrageous clothing-optional antics, their flame died out amidst drugs and acrimony before a 21st Century reformation. This all-access passion project from director Julian Boshier was a decade in the making, tagging along with Nigel 'Booga' Beazley (and partner Tamzin), Nigel Regan et al, as the still rocking members of this distinctive Kiwi rock’n’roll family enter middle age: spats, moshing n’all.
"Pitch Perfect meets Modern Family set on a marae" was the tagline for this 2017 Māori Television comedy/drama, about a kapa haka group that fluke their way to the national championships. This first episode shows that with seven weeks to prepare, whānaungatanga (family) will be as much of a challenge as getting it together onstage. Hori Ahipene plays dual roles as worried coach Teepz and Aunty Mavis. Roimata Fox plays kapa princess Koakoa, and actor turned director Katie Wolfe is Nanny Fanny. Press the CC box below the screen to translate occasional te reo dialogue.
Director Alison Maclean (Kitchen Sink, Jesus' Son) returned to New Zealand for this adaptation of Eleanor Catton's acclaimed debut novel. The psychological drama stars James Rolleston (The Dead Lands) as one of a group of acting students who use a real-life sex scandal involving a tennis coach, as creative fuel for their end of year show. The cast mixes experienced names (Kerry Fox and Miranda Harcourt as drama teachers) with emerging talents (Ella Edward). Connan Mockasin supplies the soundtrack. The Rehearsal debuted at the 2016 NZ International Film Festival.
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.
The HeART of the Matter looks at major changes in New Zealand teaching which began after World War ll. A group of bureaucrats and arts specialists set about introducing a "thoroughly bicultural and arts-centred education system" to schools — in contrast to the rote learning of the past. Combining interviews and archival footage, Luit and Jan Bieringa (The Man in the Hat) examine this period of radical educational reform, and ask what lessons can be applied to the present. In the excerpts above, pupils and teachers reminisce about their time in the classroom.
Tickled sounds like a comedy, but the film traces a path from quirky to the stuff of fear, mystery and intimidation. The documentary began when then TV3 reporter David Farrier saw a cash offer for athletes to fly to Los Angeles for 'Competitive Endurance Tickling'. Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve headed to the United States, and found ticklers scared to go on camera — and threats from those behind the scenes. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Tickled quickly won rave reviews and sales; Vogue and The Hollywood Reporter named it one of 2016's ten best documentaries.
When the Taliban attempted to destroy reels upon reels of historic Afghan film, a group of brave archivists hid the films away in a few dusty sheds in the middle of the desert. When German-based Afghani filmmaker Ibrahim Arafy returned to the Middle East to track down and restore the long hidden films, Kiwi filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly joined him, to tell the story of the archive's restoration under immensely trying conditions. Working with unskilled labourers amidst ongoing conflict, Arafy’s team do their best to save an integral part of their nation’s culture.
Tu (real-life hip hop champ Tia Maipi) has six weeks to show the talent that will win him a spot in an international dance group. As the high octane trailer for Born to Dance makes clear, that doesn’t leave much time to muck around. The first movie directed by actor Tammy Davis (Outrageous Fortune) features music by P-Money, and choreography by Manurewa’s own world champ hip hop sensation Parris Goebel (who helped choreograph J. Lo’s 2012 tour). The cast includes Stan Walker and American Kherington Payne (Fame). Playwright Hone Kouka is one of the writing team.
Kiwi avant-garde artist and musician Phil Dadson is the subject of 80-minute documentary Sonics from Scratch. Dadson has conjured sounds and experimental films from all manner of objects and locales. The documentary charts his love affair with sound, including performances with From Scratch, who created percussive music from PVC pipes. Among those appearing are some of the group's rotating ensemble of members, including Don McGlashan and cinematographer Leon Narbey. Sonics from Scratch screened at the 2015 New Zealand International Film Festival.
Journalist Kim Webby's Price of Peace is a portrait of Tūhoe activist Tame Iti, whose family Webby has known for 20 plus years. After the 2007 police raids, Iti was one of four to go on trial, accused of plotting terrorist activities. Webby’s film ranges widely from early land grievances to modern-day jail cells — and a police apology. NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder praised the result for balancing a personal focus on Iti, with “a powerfully affecting” examination of the 2007 raids, which placed the raids in "the wider context of Tūhoe history and the process of reconciliation”.
Described as "visually ravishing" (The Herald's Peter Calder), "strikingly beautiful"(Metro) and "pure social-commentary gold"(The Listener), The Ground We Won is a movie about men, rugby and the heartland. After discovering small town Reporoa en route to their earlier documentary How Far is Heaven, Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith felt it the perfect place to chronicle the changing face of small town rugby. The film premiered in April 2015 during an autumn offshoot of the NZ International Film Festival; it was judged Best Documentary at the 2017 New Zealand Film Awards.
Overhearing his crush say she only likes “real island guys” is all it takes to get Adam (Neil Amituanai, in his big screen debut) packing his bags for Samoa, in this comedy by Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa (TV's Fresh). Shot largely in Samoa over two weeks, the self-funded film co-stars Samoan locals Vito Vito and Fesuiai Viliamu as Adam’s cousins, teaching him the basics of island life. Three Wise Cousins reached number eight at the NZ box office in its opening weekend, and continued to win solid audiences, despite minimal publicity. Stuff critic James Croot called it "colourful and charming".
Jackie van Beek directed and starred in this 2014 short film, playing a tramper who finds her solitude interrupted in a Southern Alps hut. The short was filmed in Arthur’s Pass, where van Beek spent time climbing and exploring near her family crib, while growing up. Uphill won Best Film at an international showcase for organisation Women in Film and Television International; van Beek also won Best Actor at Kiwi festival Show Me Shorts. She would collaborate again with producer Aaron Watson on her feature directing debut, 2017 drama The Inland Road.
Conflicts over who has mana over the Whanganui river stretch back more than 160 years. Te Awa Tupua - Voices from the River explores connections between local iwi and the river, and how it can be protected for future generations. Working again with wife Janine Martin, psychologist/ director Paora Joseph (Tatarakihi - The Children of Parihaka) weaves together interviews, memorable images, and archive footage chronicling the 1995 occupation of Moutoa Gardens/ Pakaitore in central Whanganui. This feature-length documentary debuted at the 2014 NZ Film Festival.
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".
As the poster puts it, The Pā Boys is "about 'life, death and fu**ing good music'. It follows a Wellington band playing East Coast and Northland pubs, as they head for Cape Reinga. The trio find themselves on a roots journey that's both musical and personal (mateship, whānau, whakapapa). The cast includes singer Francis Kora, with songs by Warren Maxwell. Released in Kiwi cinemas on Waitangi Day 2014, Himiona Grace's first feature won positive reviews, and a Best Film gong at the 2014 Wairoa Māori Film Festival. Ainsley Gardiner (Boy) and Mina Mathieson (Warbrick) produced.
In 1994, Teina Pora was found guilty of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett. He spent 22 years behind bars despite physical evidence implicating someone else, and concerns over the reliability of Pora's confession. In this Māori Television documentary, director Michael Bennett examines the case against Pora, and private investigator Tim McKinnel's belief in his innocence. This excerpt includes footage from Pora’s original police interview and a visit where he fails to identify Burdett’s house. In 2015 the Privy Council quashed Pora's conviction
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”.
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.
In 1881, after being met by the pa's children holding white feathers of peace, invading constabulary ended Te Whiti and Tohu's passive resistance at Parihaka in Taranaki. One of the darkest episodes of the NZ Wars, it is revisited in this documentary made by Paora Joseph, which follows another group of Taranaki children undertaking an emotional, modern day pilgrimage to the South Island jails where their ancestors were exiled and forced to labour. Footage of their hikoi is interwoven with their poetry, song, art and narration.
The Whanganui River settlement of Jerusalem had a moment in the national spotlight when poet James K Baxter lived there in the early 70s — but it is home to a long established Māori community and the Catholic order of the Sisters of Compassion (since 1892). To make this documentary, Miriam Smith and Christopher Pryor spent a year in Jerusalem, following the lives and interactions of the nuns and the Ngāti Hau. North & South called their observations of a world of co-existing contrasts — Māori and Pākehā, young and old, secular and religious — “a cinematic treat”.
This 2011 short, from director Jackie van Beek, follows a young woman couriering her uncle’s heart. In Safe Hands was based on a real life scandal involving Greenlane Hospital stocking a 'heart library' with organs from deceased patients. For decades the hearts were used for research purposes, often without parental consent. The Dunedin-shot film won Best Self-Funded Short Film at the 2012 NZ Film Awards (The Moas), after debuting at the 2012 NZ International Film Festival. Van Beek and producer Aaron Watson later collaborated on feature film The Inland Road (2017).
This documentary examines an unusual Aotearoa first encounter: between Māori and Russians in 1820, when Queen Charlotte Sound was visited by Fabian Bellingshausen aboard the sloop the Vostok. Alongside reenactments of crew diaries, presenter Moana Maniapoto gets a history lesson from Tipene O'Regan, and visits Russia to look at traded taonga and archive material — and also find out what the famed Antarctic discoverer was doing in Ship Cove shortly after Napoleon was sent packing from Moscow. The doco screened on Māori TV and at Australia's Message Stick Festival.
You can’t choose your family. This 2011 short film explores the father-daughter dynamic between free-spirited Bird (Peter Hawes) and uptight Blessing (Dra McKay). When Bird nearly burns down the house, Blessing packs him off to the Golden Falls retirement home. Hippy Bird chaffs against the home’s confinements, and forces Blessing to reconsider what freedom and kindness might mean with regard to kin. Bird was co-directed by acclaimed advertising director Steve Ayson (The French Doors) and Jane Shearer (Nature’s Way); the pair co-wrote with Gregory King (Song of Good).
Following the big-screen success of Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls came another chronicle of a Kiwi entertainment legend: sometime Taranaki bandito, giggling newsreader and crooner Billy T James. The film uses remastered footage and an impressive cast of interviews to capture his path from cabaret singer to fame, fan clubs and eventual financial and bodily collapse. Te Movie director Ian Mune originally cast James in the classic Came a Hot Friday, as the Māori-Mexican Tainuia Kid; Te Movie co-producer Tom Parkinson played a hand in making Billy T a TV star.
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.
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.
Simone Horrocks' first feature revolves around the disintegration of a man's life, after his daughter goes missing. Horrocks relocates Stephen Blanchard's novel The Paraffin Child from a washed-up UK coastal community to West Auckland/Piha. Outrageous Fortune talent Antony Starr plays the forest ranger who separates from his wife, then learns she is pregnant to the policeman investigating his child's disappearance. Horrocks says After the Waterfall investigates healing, resilience, and "how we live with unfinished business".
American-born John Palino made his name as a restaurateur, before two unsuccessful bids to become Auckland's mayor. In this reality series he comes to the aid of struggling eateries around the country, and attempts to set them on the right path. In this episode Invercargill’s Strathern Inn is bleeding money, has a bad rep, and is possibly haunted. With a bit of savvy planning, and help from local mayor Tim Shadbolt, Palino does his best to get the staff trained up and the Inn on the path to success. Unfortunately any success proved shortlived, as the ageing building was later demolished.
This much praised documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective documentary, part historical reenactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. This excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua “made the city of God on Earth”.
This Kiwi neighbours at war ‘dramedy’ pitted the Rush family — newly arrived in Ponsonby —against the Shorts, who are long-time renters next door. Arthur Short (Patrick Wilson) is a Kiwi battler solo Dad, with two teenage daughters; Dimity Rush (Danielle Cormack) the right wing HR manager whose partner is an anaesthetist, with two teen sons. In this first episode, Dimity aspires to climb the property ladder by scheming to get the Shorts’ house as an investment doer-upper. The satire of gentrification screened on TV One on Friday nights. The cast includes Rose McIvor (iZombie).
Aileen O'Sullivan's and Toby Mills' documentary follows Black Grace as they prepare for an appearance at premier dance festival Jacob's Pillow, in Massachusetts. The film also charts the personal journey of the dance group's founder, choreographer Neil Ieremia, from the community halls of Porirua to the global stage, powered by an unrelenting perfectionism that makes for some heated rehearsal footage. Shortly after the performances shown here, Ieremia fired the entire touring company, rebuilding his vision from scratch. Ken Sparks' editing won an NZ Screen Award.
This 2005 documentary tells the story of four New Zealand-born women whose parents come from villages in Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Social worker and photographer Emily Mafile'o, students and mothers Pule Puletaua and Lanni Liuvaie, and playwright Louise Tu’u face the challenges of combining two cultures to forge an identity in Aotearoa — from family, language, food and religion, to flatting and hair cutting rituals. As narrator Sandra Kailali says, "to be true to both is hard work: success in one often comes at a cost to the other."
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
Loosely based on the case of a real-life computer dealer who acquired international bank records and later died mysteriously on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Spooked marked Geoff Murphy’s first local movie in 15 years (after time directing in Hollywood). Everyman Kevin (Christopher Hobbs) is caught up in a barrage of intimidation after buying some used computer equipment and unwittingly receiving corporate secrets; Cliff Curtis plays the journalist investigating his case. There are also rare cameos by director Vincent Ward and Goodbye Pork Pie star Kelly Johnson.
In this first feature film from writer/director Greg Page, two urban bloke best friends (Johnny Barker and Dwayne Cameron) take off on a surfing weekend. Their prospects of finding fun go down with the sun. Instead of enjoying surf and black sand, the boys find themselves lost in a rural nightmare, battling an inescapable curse. Page, known for his high energy music videos, wheel-spins city limits phobia into the Waikato heartland for a Kiwi twist on horror genre thrills. Website Horrorview called it "different and inventive enough to stand out from the crowd."
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.
Ralph Hotere (Te Aupōuri) is regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest artists. This documentary by Merata Mita provides a perspective on his world, largely by way of framing his extensive body of work. Hotere remains famously tight-lipped throughout, but there are interviews with artists, friends and commentators, alongside scenes of Hotere working and of his contemporary home context. Mita's impressionistic film is set to a Hirini Melbourne-directed score of jazz, māori and pop songs, and poetry reading by Hotere's first wife Cilla McQueen.
Director Sima Urale's follow-up to her Venice-winning short O Tamaiti swaps a Samoan child's eye view for that of an elderly Pākehā couple. In this moving confrontation with the taboos of aging, the husband struggles to care for his ailing wife and refuses their children's demands that they move into care. Exquisite attention to details and tender performances mark this tale of love accommodating the reality of death. Still Life was the first Kiwi film to take the top short award at the Montreal Film Festival; it also got a Special Mention at the Locarno fest in Switzerland.
Filmmaker Stewart Main traverses India seeking enlightenment. There he meets ex-pat Kiwis who seem to have found it, which only leaves him feeling trapped in a life of the senses. Especially when he falls for his Indian sound recordist, Sreenu. Or so he would have us think. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art documentary slot, Main's startling, provocative film explores the cracks between the divine and the sensual, documentary and fiction. Director Andrew Bancroft writes about the result in this backgrounder.
This short film follows a five-year-old child (Elizabeth Morris), after her mother's paranoid delusions reach breaking point and she is put in a mental hospital. Writer/director Belinda Schmid's aim was to show how children can respond to situations partly without emotional upset, "because we have no other measure for the ways things are supposed to be, and partly by coping in ways that help us survive at the time". Jennifer Ward-Lealand plays the mother. Nominated for Best Short at the 2000 NZ Film Awards, The Painted Lady was invited to a number of international film festivals.
Passion project The Lunatics' Ball follows an unorthodox psychologist who arrives at a psychiatric hospital and tries to use art, joy and respect to motivate his patients. First-timer Michael Thorp wrote the script partly out of worries that drug-based treatment programmes could prove more of a trap than a solution. After casting American-born oboist Russel Walder in the main role, and shooting on a shoestring, Thorp completed editing thanks to $400,000 in Film Commission funding, and help from some major industry names. The result won a jury prize at the Shanghai Film Festival.
Dancer Shona McCullagh’s award-winning debut short film offers a joyful fingers-up to gravity, dialogue, and the idea that nuns never get up to anything exciting. Two nuns flip twist and fly from bedside to beachside, turning a moving train carriage into a jungle gym (in-between desperately seeking solace from the call of nature). The footloose dance film did some travelling of its own: invited to over 30 festivals, including prestigious dance film festivals, and Edinburgh, Clermont-Ferrand, and Sundance (where it played before Kiwi feature Scarfies).
As a downtown Auckland street performer — Mesmer — makes a special connection with a cafe customer, it transpires that she can move punters in mysterious ways. Her alien perspective is distinctively conveyed: Mesmer's metallic outfit shimmers in silver, blue and gold, and she sounds like a robotic tui as she shifts and whirs and works the crowd. The first film from Morag Brownlie, Mes Mer was invited to international festivals. Among the spellbound locals, watch out for future-NZ’s Next Top Model judge Colin Mathura-Jeffree, next to Bjork (!).
Director Stewart Main talked to artist Pat Hanly about life as painter and activist for 1998 documentary Pacific Ikon, from which this excerpt is taken. Interviewed at his Mt Eden home, Hanly discusses his painting career and inspirations — both political and personal. Also interviewed are his wife Gil, who supported him personally and financially, and children Ben, Tamsin and Amber. Like his work, Hanly is ebullient, energetic and articulate, At one point he says: "We are awaiting death with interested anticipation. Some of my best friends are dead." Hanley died in September 2004.
When Love Comes features Rena Owen as a once were famous singing star who returns to New Zealand, in need of reinvention. Staying with a gay friend (Simon Prast from Gloss), she is reenergised after meeting a wastral songwriter (Dean O'Gorman) and two loved up young musicians (Sophia Hawthorne and Nancy Brunning, the former in her big screen debut). Invited to a slew of North American festivals — including Sundance and Toronto — Garth Maxwell's sun and song-lashed tale won praise stateside for its acting and "energetic direction" (The Hollywood Reporter).
In this documentary Cherie James pays tribute to New Zealand’s best-loved entertainer, telling Billy T James story from a daughter’s perspective. Performers who worked with Billy in his showband The Maori Volcanics also share their memories, as do family members who reminisce about Billy's early life growing up in the Waikato. Cherie provides her perspective on the well-publicised arguments that occurred after his death and why it was so important for Billy to be buried beside his mother on the sacred Taupiri mountain overlooking Huntly.
When high-powered director of commercials Hugh Chance (Michael Hurst) visits a small backwater town, the 'for sale' sign on the local tavern offers too good a chance to overlook — especially with the chance to create a set of waterfront condos. But the locals don’t take too kindly to this intruder trying to turn their town into a holiday resort. Starring alongside Hurst in this 47 minute teleplay are Michael Galvin and Stephen Lovatt (Being Eve) as two fellow admen, while Meryl Main (Plain Tastes) features as local artist and cafe owner Jess, who earns both Chance’s ire and affections.
In the debut feature from writer/director Scott Reynolds, serial killer Simon (Paolo Rotondo) has been locked up for the last five years, and is being interviewed by psychologist Karen Schumaker (Rebecca Hobbs). Narrated flashbacks reveal Simon's past, the demons and bad treatment in his present, and the potential for more killing. The Ugly won rave reviews, awards at fantasy festivals in Italy and Portugal, and over 30 international sales: Variety called the film "a tricky, stylish horror", praising it's suspense, visuals, and casting. The Listener's Philip Matthews found it "genuinely creepy".
A group of 20-somethings revolving around pregnant Liz (Danielle Cormack) confront a Generation X medley of 'births, deaths, and marriages' in Harry Sinclair’s debut feature, developed from the eponymous TV3 series. They experience, "the agony of failed love and ambiguous love, the agony of loneliness, the ecstasy of sex and the discovery of maturity" (Australian critic Andrew L Urban). In this excerpt from the well-received film the cast faces vexing coathangers, skirts, rubber gloves and panic attacks. NSFW caution: features actual Teutonic topless women.
Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series. This episode was one of six films that screened on TV One in 1996. The short drama follows teenage school friends Siosi (Johnny La'ulu), Matt (Faifua Amiga) and John (Robert Luisi), who are awaiting their School Certificate results. On the day he receives his grades, Siosi is beaten by his father (Ene Pataia). The following day, he discovers a tragedy has occurred within his circle of friends. This acts as a catalyst to resolve his own troubles at home. A Day in the Life won two awards at Canadian indigenous festival Dreamspeakers.
Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series; this episode is one of six short films that screened on TV One in 1996. 'Brown Sugar' is an upbeat drama about Tiuila (Tausili Mose) and Samuelu (Johnny La'ulu), two young hopefuls who meet in a music shop. Samuelu longs to be an actor and sees his chance for fame when he meets a TV commercial producer. Tiuila belongs to an amateur vocal group who are relaxed, confident and proud of their South Auckland upbringing. They name their act 'Brown Sugar' before singing to a packed house.
This ten minute drama features actor Jay Laga'aia (Street Legal). Malama (Saili Williams) is a young girl who lost her eyesight in the car crash that also killed her mother. Although she can't see in the physical world, Malama has gained a window to the spirit world. Her father Ta'a (Laga'aia) still grieves and can't cope with raising the kids. His frustrations manifest as anger. When Malama and her brother attend their baptism, the family crisis hits boiling point. Malama screened as part of pioneering Pacific Island drama series Tala Pasifika.
Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series; this episode is one of six films that screened on TV One in 1996. It's a haunting short film about a young girl named Ana (former Shortland Street star Jaime Passier Armstrong), who asks about a photo in a family album and gets an awkward brush off from her mum. When the family receives news of the tragic death of mum's sister Rose (Sela Brown), it's time for truth, and secrets from the past are revealed.
Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series; this episode is one of six short films that screened on TV One in 1996. 'The Hibiscus' is the lighthearted tale of Sefo (Soi Paito Siulepa), a retired grandfather who arrives from Samoa and plants a hibiscus in the family's back yard. Although he has difficulty speaking English, the garden is a forum to explain history and Samoan tradition to the kids. When Mum reveals her plan to concrete the yard and put in a BBQ area, the kids come up with a compromise.
Seventeen-year-old Timothy (Dean O'Gorman from Pork Pie) is facing suspension after a misguided prank. His parents hope the French-Canadian exchange student they’re hosting will settle Tim down, but when ‘Michel’ turns out to be ‘Michelle’ — and spunky — plans go awry. Coming of age and cross-cultural comedy ensues as Tim tries to court his Montreal mademoiselle. Shot around Avondale College, the award-winning NZ-Canadian film got a special mention from the Children’s Jury at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival. The cast includes Angela Bloomfield and Milan Borich.
"Maybe if we looked after our living as well as we do the dead, he'd still be here." After returning to his marae from the city, Mana (Cliff Curtis) finds himself caught up in arrangements for a tangi. But when another local commits suicide, Mana finds himself caught between traditional values and his own sense of right. Meanwhile in the forest, it seems that other powers may have the final word. The short film also features George Henare. It was written and directed by former DJ and commercials director Poata Eruera.
In this documentary for TV One, director Aileen O'Sullivan turns the camera on three sets of mother/daughter artists, and asks whether art is in the genes. Interviewing each other about their creative lives are actor Kate Harcourt and actor/acting teacher Miranda Harcourt; weaver Erenora Puketapu-Hetet and weaver/painter Veranoa Hetet (née Hauwaho); and painter Jacqueline Fahey and performer/sculptor Augusta McDonald. Frank yet loving discussions abound, like when Hetet tells her mother "sometimes you come up with silly things".
In director Garth Maxwell’s 1993 gothic horror twins Jack and Dora (late US actor Alexis Arquette and Kiwi Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) are separated while young; their adult reunion sees them battling the trauma of their past while being pursued by Jack’s sadistic step sisters. Complete with ESP, and a steam-driven hypnosis machine, Maxwell makes an exuberant and surreal contribution to the cinema of unease. New York Times’ Stephen Holden lauded the heady head-spinner as “a superior genre film” with a “feverish intensity that recalls scenes from Hitchcock and De Palma.”
Beneath her twinset, repressed housewife Gwyneth (Mandy McMullin) is close to the edge: of attacking the dishwasher, and giving in to lust (thanks to neighbour Kevin Smith). Especially after learning the husband has done the dirty on her. Based on a Fiona Farrell story, Mon Desir blends fantasy, satire and domestic tragedy. Writer/director Nicky Marshall scratches under the fingernails of Kiwi small towns, to reveal “what happens behind the facade of wholesome goodness and normality”. Mon Desir was chosen for the 'Un Certain Regard' section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Set over a Christmas beach holiday in 1935, The End of the Golden Weather chronicles the friendship between a teenage boy and the wild-limbed Firpo, dreamer and social outcast. Writer/director Ian Mune spent more than 15 years "massaging" Bruce Mason's classic solo play into a movie, before assembling a dream team to bring it to the screen. The finished film captures the world view of a boy for whom fantasy, hope and disappointment intermingle. Among an impressive awards haul, 12-year-old star Stephen Fulford was recognised at America's Youth in Film Awards.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). Key original cast and the famous original title sequence and tune are reprised, but now with Beauty galloping along a west coast beach. Two seasons were produced.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the fifth episode sees Vicky and Beauty meet a mysterious travelling circus; and postman Samuel (Bill Kerr) learns a lesson in trusting shysters.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in New Zealand and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the fourth episode sees Vicky striving to convince the postmasters (Bill Kerr and Ilona Rodgers) that she and Beauty can be posties; and she faces hostility from local kids (including a young Claire Chitham).
Dame Catherine Tizard has been many things: mother, marriage celebrant, civic leader and Her Majesty's rep in NZ. Here Tizard takes reporter Marcia Russell through her life, from a Waikato town (where she was wary of becoming a farmer's wife); through marrying her uni lecturer; leading Auckland as mayor; to her Governor-General role. Her front-running story parallels societal changes that presented increased opportunities for Kiwi women. A roll-call of Governors-General outlines how for over 100 years the position was held exclusively by white British males.
Future Shortland Streeter Craig Parker features in this tale centred on a group of young teens fascinated by radio-controlled car racing. Screening as a TV series, Hotshotz was also recut into this telefilm. The "swift and slick" tale (The Listener) sees the teens setting out to foil a criminal gang, as a kidnapping sets the scene for espionage and counterfeiting. In scenes that echo modern-day drone use, a remote controlled model helicopter equipped with a camera plays a key role in the story’s resolution. Veteran writer Ken Catran contributed to a title that sold in 25 territories.
Astronomy-obsessed worrier Richard meets part-Italian Johnny, a man whose idea of a holiday involves breaking into the nearest bach. Pitched at gay and straight alike, the pair's lighthearted but occasionally troubled romance featured extensive footage of central Auckland circa 1988 (courtesy of director Garth Maxwell’s own central Queen Street digs), plus images of space — for Richard a place of both beauty and potential disaster. Beyond Gravity won local theatrical screenings, and a scriptwriting award in France. This excerpt features the opening 10 minutes of the 48 minute film.
A young boy is afflicted by apocalyptic visions in medieval Cumbria. Believing he is divinely inspired to save his village from the Black Death, he persuades a group of men to follow him into a tunnel. They dig deep into the earth and emerge ... in Auckland, New Zealand, 1987. Following portents, the time travelers must negotiate the terrors of a strange new world, (motorways, nuclear submarines) — while seeking to save their own. Nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, it scooped the gongs at the 1988 AFI and 1989 NZ Film & TV Awards.
BMX bikes, motorcycles, and home computers — as the opening titles demonstrate, this children’s adventure series features all the hardware an 80s-era kid could want. In the first episode, Sandra, Mike and their father move into the city, arriving just in time for two jewel thieves to crash into their lives after a daring heist at Auckland Museum, and a chase through the city. Scripted by Kiwi kidult king-turned-novelist Ken Catran (Children of the Dog Star), Steel Riders was later shortened to movie length for American video release, as Young Detectives on Wheels.
This classic short film provides an unusual showcase for Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair, the founders of musical theatre group The Front Lawn. The slice of life narrative unravels like a baton relay; the duo play every character, revolving around pedestrians on Auckland's Karangahape Road. Walkshort was directed by editor Bill Toepfer. Sinclair went on to do some directing of his own (Topless Women Talk about their Lives), while McGlashan would pay musical tribute to another famous Auckland street, Dominion Road. Costa Botes writes about Walkshort here.
This documentary tells the stories of the New Zealand soldiers who were part of the identity-defining Gallipoli campaign in World War I. In the ill-fated mission to take a piece of Turkish coastline, 2721 New Zealanders died with 4752 wounded. As part of research, every one of the then-surviving Gallipoli veterans living in New Zealand was interviewed, with 26 finally filmed. Shot at a barren, rocky Gallipoli before the advent of Anzac Day tourism, this important record screened on Easter Sunday 1984, and won a Feltex Award for Best Documentary.
Heroes followed a band trying to make it in the mid-80s music biz. Teen-orientated, the show marked a first major role for Jay Laga’aia (Star Wars), and an early gig for Michael Hurst (with blonde Billy Idol spikes). Band keyboardist John Gibson co-wrote the series music; he later became an award-winning film composer. Margaret Umbers (Shortland Street, Bridge to Nowhere) was a non-musician in the cast (with Hurst), but since has sung regularly in a jazz band. A second series follow in 1986.
Long before the comedy of Flight of the Conchords, Heroes followed the triumphs and pitfalls of a band trying to make it in the mid-80s New Zealand music biz. It marked the first major role for Jay Laga’aia, and early leading parts for Michael Hurst and Margaret Umbers. In this first episode the band gets together as Dave (Hurst) ditches his covers band, flunks a TV audition, and hooks up opportunist flatmate Ron (Laga’aia), synth player Peter (John Gibson, who co-wrote the series music) and bass player Maxine (Umbers). Synth and leopard skin abound.
In this episode of the long-running nature programming slot on TV One, naturalist David Bellamy visits New Zealand’s “dinosaur forest” — Whirinaki. Bellamy brings his famed nature-boy enthusiasm to “a living cathedral that dates back 200 million years”. He explores the North Island forest’s “big five”: 60m+ rimu, mataī, kahikatea, miro and tōtara trees; and the ecosystem that they reign over, from kākā parrots to giant tree ferns. The intro is by Gael Ludlow and features the fondly-remembered Jean Michel Jarre synthpop track that was Our World’s signature.
This 1982 Lookout documentary charts Samoan novelist and poet Albert Wendt’s personal view of Samoans in Auckland. Set mainly in what was then predominantly Samoan Grey Lynn, Wendt looks at how New Zealand-born Samoans maintain the traditions of their homeland. He also examines the close ties between those in New Zealand and the wider ainga, or extended family, back home. The church’s role in the community is highlighted, along with sports. Wendt also addresses what he sees as the double edged sword of remittance: sending money back to islands.
The powerhouse, largely Māori cast of this teleplay includes Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita, Billy T James (as a Marxist) and, in his acting debut, Zac Wallace (star of Utu). The Protesters explores issues involving race and land ownership in the aftermath of the Springbok Tour and Bastion Point. A group of Māori and Pākehā protestors occupy ancestral land that the government wants to sell. While waiting for the police to arrive, they debate whether to go quietly or respond with violence. Though some wounds are healed, The Protesters ends on a note of division, reflecting the era it was made in.
This People Like Us episode profiles Apirana Mahuika, before he became leader of Ngāti Porou. Having left lecturing at Massey University to return to his East Coast hometown of Tikitiki, Mahuika talks at his farm 'laboratory' about tamarillos, gangs, and coming home. He hopes his progressive farming (trialling kiwifruit and wine) will encourage young Ngāti Porou to remain and find jobs. A key figure in many Treaty of Waitangi claims and lead negotiator of Ngāti Porou's claim, Mahuika died in February 2015; Tau Henare said "his passing will cut a swathe through the forest".
In an age before Rogernomics, and well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o'clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. The series was inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time and satirised a paper-pushing working life then-familiar to many Kiwis. Gliding On won several Feltex Awards including best male and female actors and best entertainment.
In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o'clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.
In the third episode of Johnstone’s Journey, broadcaster Ian Johnstone meets three generations of the Wendelken family. The episode is framed around an interview with matriarch Elsie, 85, then living in Timaru — her daughter Rae and grandson Ivan farm nearby. Son John is a public servant in Wellington; granddaughter Anne is a mother in suburban Wellington. Topics span from world wars, depression, farming and inflation, to shifting values. Says Elsie: “There are two things that have been left completely out of today’s young people: one is obedience, and the other is discipline.”
The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand and wrestling with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.