Keith Hunter is an award-winning writer and documentary maker, known for his investigations into miscarriages of justice. His screen credits include The Remand of Ivan Curry, Out of the Dark, Staunch, and award-winner Murder on the Blade?, about the Scott Watson case. Hunter has also directed drama and comedy on shows such as Mortimer's Patch and Letter to Blanchy.
The 1999 conviction of Scott Watson for two murders resulted from the most dishonest and dishonourable criminal prosecution in New Zealand history. Keith Hunter, on his website
Subtitled A Journalist's View, this award-winning documentary makes the case that Scott Watson shouldn't have been imprisoned for murdering Ben Smart and Olivia Hope — because he couldn't have done it. Returning to Endeavour Inlet, veteran director Keith Hunter talks to witnesses, and argues the prosecution fumbled vital details of the murderer's yacht and description, then advanced a new theory without evidence to back it. Hunter went on to write 2007 book Trial by Trickery, further critiquing what he calls “New Zealand's most blatantly dishonest prosecution”.
Staunch follows the politicisation of Ariana (Once Were Warriors’ Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) a young Māori woman who’s run into trouble with the law. Guided by a sympathetic social worker (Tamati Patuwai) she defends herself against assault charges following a police raid on her home. The Auckland-set TV3 drama was inspired by fact, and co-written by director Keith Hunter and playwright Toa Fraser; it won multiple gongs at the 2002 NZ TV Awards. Staunch was an early screen credit for Fraser (director of feature films No. 2, Dean Spanley, and ballet doco Giselle).
This documentary follows the police investigation that lead to the capture and imprisonment of South Auckland rapist Joseph Thompson. He was the first serial rapist convicted in New Zealand. Using re-enactments and in depth interviews with police, the Keith Hunter-directed doco examines how the relatively new technology of DNA matching and criminal profiling led to the arrest of Thompson in 1995. Viewers are not spared details of his long-lasting and brutal rampage which targeted girls as young as 10. Thompson was eventually sentenced to over 30 years in prison.
Occasional Heartland host Kerre Woodham visits the annual Easter races at Riverton in Southland. Riverton is New Zealand's second oldest town, and the close knit locals have a big passion for horse-racing. Woodham talks to owners, trainers (one of them at his freezing works job), jockeys and punters, as well as the judges of 'Best Dressed Lady at the Races', who are looking for a nice line in matching hats, bags, shoes and gloves. The documentary contains some good examples of the Southland rolled 'r' from some of the locals who are interviewed.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle back-blocks comedy co-written by A.K. Grant, Tom Scott and comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby (who also starred). Each episode centred on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The show's narration comes from a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
This NHNZ documentary looks at the fierce debate between animal lovers and ecologists over the wild horses of the Kaimanawa Ranges (with striking footage of them running free). At issue: a delicate tussock land ecosystem with rare native plants dating back thousands of years, increasingly at risk from horses recognised for their uniqueness — but whose numbers have grown tenfold in 15 years. Reducing the herd size is the favoured option. But only younger horses can be sold and, with older ones going to an abattoir, the plan is opposed by the horse lobby.
Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre McIvor) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.
Frontline replaced Close Up as TVNZ’s flagship, primetime current affairs show in 1988. Fronted by Ross Stevens, and made at Avalon at a time when TVNZ management had relocated to Auckland, it produced the controversial 1990 doco For the Public Good which explored the relationship between business and the Labour Government. In the fallout, TVNZ was sued, staff were sacked and the office moved to Auckland. In 1994, a special about the Winebox tax allegations saw Frontline back in the news. Other presenters included Lindsay Perigo, Anita McNaught and Susan Wood.
This TVNZ documentary captures the early days of NewstalkZB, shortly after Radio New Zealand gambled on relaunching it with an all talk format. Previous breakfast host Merv Smith has taken most of his audience to rival Radio i; his replacement is Paul Holmes. The former king of the Wellington airwaves is soon grappling to make an impact in Auckland. Competition amongst the stations is cutthroat, but Holmes is the focal point here. He’s under pressure and surrounded by a battery of often conflicting opinions. By 1988 he'd hauled the show from ninth to second in the ratings.
This Inspiration edition profiles NZ’s pre-eminent children's author Margaret Mahy: from her childhood as "Mad Margaret", through her days as an unmarried mother and librarian to an internationally acclaimed writing career. The centrepiece is a specially commissioned – and typically zany – story about a story (complete with talking mail boxes, typewriters and bookshelves) where Mahy goes meta, and explores the role imagination plays in her work. Throughout the Keith Hunter-directed documentary there is vivid evidence of the remarkable bond Mahy shared with her readers.
TVNZ’s 80s arts programme follows a Royal NZ Ballet visit to China in this documentary directed by Keith Hunter. The trip is billed as a cultural exchange but the term belies the stresses of missing equipment, a director who has lost his voice, language barriers, incorporating a local seven-year-old girl into their performance and, for some, the dishes at a banquet. On a rare day off, there’s a chance to marvel at the scale of the The Great Wall; and there are insights into the everyday lives of the Chinese people as the country begins to open itself up to the world.
Country GP was a major 80s drama series that charted the post-war years 1945 to 1950 in a rural central South Island town. Using fast-turnaround techniques that anticipated later series like Shortland Street, 66 episodes of Country GP were shot in 18 months at a specially built set in Whiteman’s Valley, Lower Hutt. It was groundbreaking as the first NZ series to cast a Samoan in a title role (Lani Tupu as Dr David Miller); but it also provided a nostalgic look back to an apparently kinder, gentler time than mid-80s New Zealand with its major social reforms and upheavals.
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.
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular police series following detective Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper), a city cop returning to his rural roots. In the first episode, scripted by Keith Aberdein (The Governor), a girl (Greer Robson) goes missing in sand dunes near the shack of an eccentric recluse. Fear and suspicion mounts, and Mortimer brings in help from the city: prejudiced detective Chris Knight (Ken Blackburn). Don Selwyn plays Sergeant Bob Storey. In this background piece, Mortimer's Patch producer Tom Finlayson writes about the show's birth, death and double resurrection.
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.
Radio Waves charted the “lives and loves” of a commercial Auckland radio station in the age of Bee Gees and flares. Grant Bridger (‘Win Savage’) and Andy Anderson played DJs with Alan Dale as station manager; it was Dale’s screen debut, before fame in Australia (Neighbours) and the US (24, Ugly Betty). Devised by Graeme Farmer, Waves was an effort by SPTV to best TV One’s flagship soap Close to Home. While producer Tom Finlayson’s first drama was short-lived, its metro Auckland context — peopled with upbeat urban strivers — signaled a changing NZ on screen.
Introduced to New Zealand in 1851, red deer soon became controversial residents: sport for hunters, but despised by farmers and conservationists for the damage they caused. First targeted by government cullers in the 1930s, by the 60s they were shot by commercial operators for venison export. Directed by Bruce Morrison and Keith Hunter, this award-winning documentary catches up with the hunt in the 70s, when deer for farming – dramatically caught alive, from helicopters – was a multi-million dollar gold rush. Different versions of the film were made for overseas markets.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.
With the advent of two channel television, Encounter became TV2's local documentary strand showing half-hour programmes at 7.15pm on Sunday nights (although it was later moved to 9.40pm). With a brief to explore "people, places and life in New Zealand today", it featured work made by TV2 staff producers, directors and reporters including Bruce Morrison, George Andrews, Keith Hunter, DOC Williams, Bryan Allpress and Rodney Bryant (who made a number of profiles of prominent New Zealanders). In 1977, it was replaced by Perspective.
Town and Around was a nightly magazine show, covering everything from current affairs and studio interviews to slapstick to stunts; including a notorious spoof on a farmer who shod his turkeys in gumboots. A popular and wide-ranging regional series, it ran for five years from 1965, and was the training ground for a generation of industry professionals (Brian Edwards, David McPhail, and Des Monaghan amongst many others). Town and Around was made prior to a national network link, and editions came out of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.