Fred Renata jumped from electrical engineering into film, after joining the camera crew on Merata Mita's only dramatic feature, Mauri (1987). After helping out on landmark Māori drama series E Tipu e Rea, he later shot his first feature, Magik and Rose (1999). Since then his work as a cinematographer has ranged widely — from music videos and adverts, to hit TV shows 800 Words and Being Eve, to successful movie Mt Zion. Renata has also shot many documentaries (Poi E, Herbs - Songs of Freedom, Hotere), often with Māori themes. In 2003 he won an NZ Television Award, for his work on drama series Street Legal.
Fred has an eye like a viewfinder. [Producer] Larry (Parr) suggested that Fred's pupils might be rectangular — and I don't think he's far wrong. Magik and Rose director Vanessa Alexander
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
After success with short films (This is Her, Redemption) director Katie Wolfe made the transition to longer length story-telling with this 2010 drama. With This is Her writer Kate McDermott she adapted the Witi Ihimaera novel about a 40-something man confronting his double life, and the impact that his coming out as gay has on his wife, kids, and whānau. A key change was turning the book’s Pākehā protagonist to a successful Māori businessman (Calvin Tuteao). It screened on TV One on 23 January 2010 and at festivals internationally (where it was entitled Kawa).
This documentary tells the 25-year history of Kohanga Reo via the influential figure of Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi (2014 New Zealander of the Year finalist). Kohanga Reo is a world-leading educational movement that revitalised Māori language, “by giving it back to the children”. Not eschewing controversy, director Tainui Stephens’ film journeys from a time when students were punished for speaking Māori to a present where they can have ‘total immersion’ schooling in te reo. The Qantas Award-nominated doco screened on Māori Television, and at indigenous festival ImagineNATIVE.
Muscular and intense, this challenging (and presumably autobiographical) short film boldly brings to life an epiphany, and the impetus to rebuild following dark personal struggle. "Tangaroa has opened and revealed so many emotions, so many stories, so many images for me that I had to shoot a video for this powerful piece of music. It has become a catalyst for change within my life. A tool to help unlock and understand the past, present and future." Tiki Taane - April 09
Doves of War is a political thriller revolving around a group of ex-Kiwi soldiers and their involvement in a war crime committed 10 years prior. A discovery of a mass grave in Bosnia forces ex-SAS Sergeant Lucas Crichton (Aussie actor Andrew Rodoreda) to revisit a past he and his comrades would rather bury. Also on the trail is ambitious Hague prosecutor Sophie Morgan. Action travels from Europe to upmarket Auckland, Wellington nightclubs, West Coast bush, and central Otago. Written by Greg McGee (Fallout, Erebus), it screened for one season on TV3.
Orange Roughies was a 'border security' drama series following a Police and Customs task force led by Danny Wilder (Australian actor Nicholas Coughan). Made for TV One, the ScreenWorks production was likely inspired by Australian television hit Water Rats. Set in and around Auckland Harbour, it featured storylines involving drug busts, child trafficking, undercover ops and plenty of land-sea chase action. The show was created by Rod Johns and former policeman Scott McJorrow. The script team was rounded out by Kristen Warner and series writer Greg McGee.
Doves of War is a political thriller revolving around a group of ex-Kiwi soldiers and their involvement in a war crime committed 10 years earlier. In this opening episode media reports of a mass grave discovered in Bosnia, force ex-SAS Sergeant Lucas Crichton (Aussie actor Andrew Rodoreda) to revisit a past he and his comrades would rather keep buried. Also on the trail is ambitious Hague prosecutor Sophie Morgan and the journalist who was leaked the story. Written by Greg McGee (Fallout, Erebus, Skin and Bone), Doves screened for one season on TV3.
Orange Roughies was a 'border security' drama series following a Police and Customs task force in Auckland. Storylines included drugs busts, undercover ops and plenty of motorised chase action. In this excerpt from the first episode, customs officer Jane Durant (McLeod's Daughters actor Zoe Naylor) boards a ship suspected of trafficking children from China. The TV One series was devised by ex policeman Scott McJorrow and Rod Johns, for production company ScreenWorks.
Solo mum Leeanne Rosser (Jean's Kate Elliott) is rejected by her Christian mother. She tries to stay close to her brother Brent (Jared Turner), unaware of his secret life as a thief. One day a burglary goes wrong, and a woman is badly injured. The incident causes repercussions for all the members of the two families, and relationships begin to fracture. Based on Maurice Gee's novel Crime Story, Fracture was the second feature directed by Larry Parr. Its release was delayed by the collapse of Parr's company Kahukura in 2002. The Press called Fracture "competent, confident and complex".
Middledon is invaded by aliens in this early 2000s teen series. In this first episode, Jeff and Noodle — 21st Century skater descendents of Terry Teo fed on What Now? ADD — stumble upon the conspiring Neo Corporation. Being the only ones to see Neo's nefarious plot, the duo must resist mind control (teen spirit anyone?), save the town, and stop their skate park being 'wasted' and turned into a mall. Future World fashion designer Benny Castles plays Jeff, Rawiri Paratene is Gran (!) Pekapeka, and Antony Starr's Stevo channels teen slacker icon Jeff Spicoli.
Twenty three years after Foreskin's Lament became a Kiwi cause célèbre, writer Greg McGee brought his classic play to television. Skin and Bone "asset strips" and updates the story to reflect rugby (and society's) evolution. Here Seymour (Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr) — falteringly pursuing a professional career — returns home to play a last game for his rural club side. The brutality he witnesses leaves him questioning the morals of the code. The role of the old guard coach is reprised by Roy Billing, in McGee's opinion "the first and definitive Tupper".
This quirky, upbeat comedy-drama looked at teen life through the eyes of 15-year-old Eve (Fleur Saville). Something of an amateur teen anthropologist, Eve questions everything in her world, musing on life to the camera. The series' fresh, self-aware style appealed directly to media-savvy teenagers. The TV3 series launched Saville's TV career, fostered young directing and producing talent, won many awards (including Best Drama Series at the 2002 NZ TV Awards) and was nominated for an International Emmy. It sold to over 40 territories, including the United States.
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."
This short film draws on a key incident in the life of Te-Ao-kapurangi, a woman of mana for Te Arawa's people. In the late nineteenth century, Aotearoa was in the grip of a 'musket war'; firearms were having a devastating effect in tribal battles. Hongi, a Ngāpuhi chief, leads a well-armed assault on a rival Te Arawa tribe. Te-Ao-kapurangi (Stephanie Grace) challenges Hongi and uses her wits, not a gun, to save her people. Invited to prestigious French festival Clermont-Ferrand, the film marked a rare drama directing credit for the late Tama Poata, writer of landmark Māori film Ngāti.
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.
Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.
A wandering fortune teller parks her house truck in Hokitika on a mission to find the daughter she gave up for adoption. This is Magik. One of her first clients, a young happily married chemist's assistant, is seeking a solution to her infertility. This is Rose. Magik, too, is resolved to have another child, but without having to keep the father around. They embark on a joint odyssey for love, sex and pregnancy in writer/director Vanessa Alexander’s feature debut (made when she was 28). David Stratton in Variety praised the film’s "disarmingly sweet treatment".
More than 20 years on, 'Treaty' remains as infectious as it does relevant, mixing haka, hip hop and funk to present a message on Māori sovereignty. Channelling the colours of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, the video creates a fitting backdrop for lyrics delivered via the stirring vocals of Moana and the Moahunters, verses by rapper Bennett Pomana (Upper Hutt Posse, Dam Native), and elements of traditional performance. According to director Ross Cunningham, the set design was inspired by Ralph Hotere illustrations from a book of Hone Tuwhare poems.
Annie Crummer came to attention with her cameo in ‘For Today’ in 1985 and she was a member of the high profile late 80s act When The Cats Away — but her debut solo album Language didn’t appear until 1992. This cover of a song originally recorded by Eric Clapton was its first single. It features Pacific reggae band Herbs (with the late Charlie Tumahai as duet partner). Fred Renata’s stylish video is a study in monochrome as it alternates black and white backdrops (and wardrobe for Crummer), and augments them with photos of loved ones and shadow play.
Jack Lovelock won New Zealand’s first Olympic athletics gold medal. He did so in spectacular fashion, winning the 1500 metres at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In front of Hitler and 110,000 spectators, the famous ‘Lovelock kick’ unfurled into NZ’s sporting and collective consciousness: from Timaru to Oxford, to Berlin triumph. Yet Lovelock was an enigmatic achiever. In this short film, the race — the supremely judged apex of a sporting career — is contrasted with his mysterious and tragic death, in front of a train on the New York subway in 1949.
Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with its tale of resourceful misfits. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83-year-old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata (Vanessa Rare in her screen debut) — a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into shoplifting, while Simon Barnett plays a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves, in this tale from writer Graeme Tetley.
A teenage boy (Lance Wharewaka) should be at school, but instead learns about the bush and the old days from his ailing grand uncle (Bill Tawhai). The friendship prepares the boy with the necessary skills for life. Written by poet Hone Tuwhare, Eel marked the drama directing debut of TV3 newsreader and Wild South presenter Joanna Paul."He [Bill] brought a mana with him and has such irreplaceable Māori knowledge," said Paul, who remembered him discussing "how he used bobs to catch eels. He remembers using flax — you can't buy knowledge like that."
A rural raised woman (Dianne Renolds) reconnects with her half sister (Rena Owen) in the city, and learns some hard life lessons. Roimata was the first film directed by then unknown writer Riwia Brown. Brown was initially reluctant to direct the adaptation of her play but, encouraged by producer Larry Parr, she decided that with only one Māori woman director in New Zealand (Merata Mita) there was a need to develop the talent of Māori women in the industry. Brown later wrote the screenplay for Once Were Warriors. Screen legend Ramai Hayward also features.
In a nod to his theatre training, Whale Rider actor Rawiri Paratene (then better known as a presenter on Play School) unveils three stories to a marae audience. A bored schoolboy (Faifua Amiga) banters with a sarcastic teacher; a musical number features a prostitute (Rena Owen) and her client; and a young girl and her grandfather prepare and wait for the body of her father at the pā. This was the first screen drama directed by Don Selwyn, who argued "what Rawiri is saying in his script is that there are lots of things Māori which are left out of the education system."