By the start of 1998 Duncan Sarkies had written seven plays, including Chapman Tripp winner Saving Grace — he had also adapted the tale of a man who claims to be Jesus, into a movie. Collaborations with brother Robert include hit movie Scarfies, and 2012 black comedy Two Little Boys (based on Duncan’s debut novel). He has also brought his dark, quirky sensibility to Flight of the Conchords, short films and stand-up comedy.
Make a note of the name — Duncan Sarkies. Sarkies is only 24, but Saving Grace, his first full length play is astonishingly good. With this one work the playwright has leapfrogged “promising” and gone straight to the first division. The Listener, reviewing Sarkies’ play Saving Grace in 1994
Former pro wrestler Wilbur McDougall was battling addiction and self-imposed isolation before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery. For this serio-comic documentary, he let university mate J Ollie Lucks film his journey of transformation. McDougall needs a new wrestling persona — and the "happiness and self-acceptance that has eluded him for so long". Will his friendship with Lucks survive, as the filmmaker jumps at the story from the top rope? Lucks and Julia Parnell's feature began in 2015 as a short film for Loading Docs. The long version debuted at 2017's Doc Edge Festival.
Actor/director Taika Waititi teamed up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement for this mockumentary about life for a flat of vampires. Cameras follow the vamps as they struggle to get into Wellington pubs, squabble over chores and face off against werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jackie van Beek and lazy vampire Jonathan Brugh) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature. It also spawned two TV series, and a live show.
Two Little Boys follows the misadventures of two Invercargill bogans. When a Scandinavian tourist fatally encounters his fender, Nige (Bret McKenzie) runs to his mate Deano (Australian comedian Hamish Blake). "Trouble is, Deano's not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis." Mateship is challenged by flatmate Gav (Maaka Pohatu), a rogue sea lion, and some dunderheaded decision-making. Directed by Rob Sarkies (Scarfies) and written with his brother Duncan (from his novel), the black comedy is also known by the title Deano and Nige's Best Last Day Ever.
Ventriloquist David Strassman has appeared on talk shows and TV specials in Aotearoa, Australia, the United Kingdom and his native United States. Strassman's first TV series debuted in Australia in 1998; the next year Strassman played on British network ITV. The basic formula of a chat show hosted by a man and a shameless puppet was then carried over to New Zealand. Strassman's alter egos include the irascible Chuck Wood and the cuddly Ted E Bare. Among his local guests were Kiwi TV personalities (Mike King, Robyn Malcolm) and the occasional musician and politician.
In Scarfies, five Dunedin students find themselves in a free squat, and a dark place, after taking a criminal captive in their basement. The debut feature from Rob Sarkies starts as a comic tribute to Otago student days, then turns into a psychological thriller. Outside of the two Warriors movies, Scarfies was the most successful Kiwi release of the 90s on home turf. It went on to scoop best film, director and screenplay awards at the 2000 NZ Film and TV Awards. This excerpt sees the scarfies torn between dealing with the crim and a footy match at Carisbrook.
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell, she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his earlier work, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; although critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film that offered "style and brains".
This film records the devising of a “work in progress” by theatre director Ashley Thorndyke (Jason Hoyte). The concept — by Duncan Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Scarfies) — mocks the gamut of thesp and drama school cliches: from ‘wanky’ director to wacky warm-up exercises (animal impersonations, primal screams, Love Boat theme song). Peter Burger, fresh out of Broadcasting School, co-directs, and the willing cast is drawn from the 90s Wellington theatre scene orbiting around Bats and Victoria University. Future Conchord Jemaine Clement memorably learns to get loose.