Fiona Kay was just 12 when she starred in Vincent Ward’s Vigil, playing a shy farm girl who retreats into make believe. Keen to avoid sentimentality, Ward interviewed 200 children before casting her. Vigil won a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. Kay appeared in almost every scene; reviewers praised her “faultless” and “remarkable” acting, and “restless inner intensity”. After a handful of further acting roles — including sci-fi series The Boy from Andromeda — Kay emigrated to Australia.

I don't know that I've ever seen a young actress display the combination of restraint and sheer power that she shows here ... Kay is called upon to communicate her character completely through the tiniest, subtlest gestures and expressions ... In her face, a soul is laid bare. Hal Hinson reviewing Vigil in The Washington Post, 22 March 1988

The Boy From Andromeda

1990, As: Tessa - Television

On a holiday to Mt Tarawera with her scientist parents, teenager Jenny (Katrina Hobbs) finds an odd shard of metal. By touching it she unwittingly awakens 'Drom' — a survivor of an alien mission to deactivate a planet-annihilating space gun (aka the volcano!). Local kids Tessa and Lloyd also own key pieces; if Drom and the teen trio can't defeat the gun-toting mechanoid ... human and alien species extinction is imminent! The internationally successful six part series was a South Pacific Pictures and Canadian co-production; it screened in 1991.

An Angel at My Table

1990, As: Marguerite - Film

Directed by Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table is adapted from author Janet Frame's renowned three-part autobiography. It threads together a series of images and scenes to evoke Frame's dramatic life story. Originally made as a TV drama, the much-acclaimed dramatisation won cinema release in 35 countries; it established Campion as a global director, launched actor Kerry Fox, and introduced new audiences to the "mirror city" of Frame's writing. This excerpt follows Frame's life-saving escape from Seacliff Asylum, to first publishing success at Frank Sargeson’s bach.

The Boy from Andromeda - The Guardian

1990, As: Tessa - Television

On a holiday to Mt Tarawera, teenager Jenny (Katrina Hobbs) finds an odd shard of metal. In this third episode of the kids sci-fi series she meets its owner: 'Drom' — a survivor of an alien mission to deactivate a planet-annihilating space gun (aka Tarawera itself). They find themselves under siege from a Predator-like 'Guardian' of the gun. If Drom and Jenny and local kids Tessa and Lloyd (future What Now? presenter Anthony Samuels) can't defeat the mechanoid, catastrophe is imminent! The South Pacific Pictures series found international sales and cult repute.

Gravity’s Angel

1989, As: Lisa - Short Film

Kaleidoscope - Vincent Ward

1989, Subject - Television

This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at Vincent Ward's first two features, Vigil and The Navigator. The director talks about the madness of the Cannes Film Festival, echoes Jack Nicholson's view that women are "a lot smarter than men", and explains why a nuclear sub turns up in The Navigator. He visits his parent's Wairarapa farm, where they remember him as a straightforward and easygoing child. Fiona Kay provides unsparing memories of starring in Vigil as a child, and the film's co-writer Graeme Tetley admires Ward's courage in tackling "big issues" like guilt and betrayal.

Vigil

1984, As: Lisa Peers ('Toss') - Film

Toss is an 11-year old girl living on a remote hill country farm. While out with her father herding sheep, he falls and is killed. Ethan, a bearded stranger appears, carrying his body, and plants himself on the farm. Toss fears he’s Lucifer and is confused when he and her mother become lovers. It is through Ethan, however, that Toss comes to terms with her father’s death and the first stirrings of womanhood. Vincent Ward’s debut feature was the first NZ film selected for competition at Cannes; LA Times’ critic Kevin Thomas lauded it as “a work of awesome beauty”.