Nikki Si’ulepa won acclaim after starring in 1996 movie The Whole of the Moon, as a Samoan street kid in love. There have been further screen roles, but Si'ulepa is more active behind the scenes. Alongside reporting, filming and directing for Pacific show Tagata Pasifika, she wrote Pacific fallout tale Snow in Paradise, co-directing it with Justine Simei-Barton. The short film was invited to 11 festivals, including Tribeca and Berlin. She also helmed shorts Ma and Aroha, and hosted a 2017 episode of Neighbourhood. In 2016 she began co-starring Pot Luck, which was promoted as Aotearoa's first lesbian webseries.
[Director Ian Mune’s] discovery of Nikki Si’ulepa, in Mune’s words a ‘very rare talent’, must have been very good for morale. She dominates the camera and the action with a natural authority. Rick Bryant in Metro magazine, reviewing 1996 movie The Whole of the Moon
This romantic feature is inspired by the couple behind the camera. Kiwi-Samoan filmmaker Nikki Si’ulepa (Snow in Paradise) and Rachel Aneta Wills have dramatised their bumpy journey towards marriage and put it on the big screen. Pākehā single mum Rachel (they’ve kept real names) meets Samoan filmmaker Nikki and is immediately drawn to her, but self-doubt, botched communication and a pesky ex are landmines in wait. Director Si’ulepa wanted to "offer a glimpse into same sex relationships" and tell a "true, romantic love story that people can relate to".
Writer/director Tusi Tamasese won multiple awards for his first feature, Samoan drama The Orator - O Le Tulafale. This New Zealand-set follow-up involves a Samoan father whose daughter Ilisa (Shortland Street's Frankie Adams) returns home, pregnant and badly beaten. Uelese Petaia (star of Albert Wendt adaptation Sons for the Return Home) is the boxer turned baker, in a tale of family, redemption and revenge. One Thousand Ropes debuted in the Panorama section of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. The clip captures the recording of the movie's soundtrack in a Wellington chapel.
The second season of New Zealand's first lesbian web series features drama with new partners, family responsibilities and long held secrets. Beth (Tessa Jamieson-Karaha) faces difficult decisions around the welfare of her mother, who is living with dementia, and girlfriend Anna is keen for more attention. Despite her swagger Mel (Nikki Si'ulepa) is finding it hard to emotionally move on from Beth, while Debs (Anji Kreft) is struggling to control a secret that affects her work and love life. Pot Luck became a global hit with over five million views across both series.
New Zealand's first lesbian web series follows three Wellington friends as they fumble their way toward love and acceptance. Producer Robin Murphy and director (and film school tutor) Ness Simons made the first episode in 2015 on a lean budget, followed by five more. In 2017 NZ On Air helped fund a second series. Pot Luck has attracted millions of unique hits, and featured at international web festivals. The cast includes Nikki Si'ulepa (actor, and director of Salat se Rotuma - Passage to Rotuma), Tess Jamieson-Karaha (Births, Deaths and Marriages) and Brit import Anji Kreft.
This entry in 2015 short film omnibus K' Rd Stories is billed as a “love story that’s not as simple as boy meets girl”. Directed by the multi-talented Nikki Si’Ulepa (Snow in Paradise), Aroha begins with Jade (played by K’ Rd denizen and Takatāpui presenter Ramon Te Wake) being stood up at a bar on the iconic strip. Jade’s spirits are lifted by an especially optimistic bartender (Hans Masoe), who muses about aroha, honesty and being open to experience — “I think he chickened out because he’s afraid of love”. But is the bartender’s advice too good to be true?
Created by New Zealand Film & Television School tutor Ness Simons, Pot Luck became the country's first lesbian web series. It follows three Wellington friends who get together every week for a shared dinner. The trio challenge each other to achieve the impossible — Mel (actor/director Nikki Si'ulepa) has to keep her promiscuous hands to herself until shy Debs (British actor Anji Kreft) finds romance, while Beth (Tess Jamieson-Karaha) needs to find the courage to tell her mother she's gay. The six-part web series was funded partly by a crowdfunding campaign and various grants.
Described as “bloody brilliant” by horror legend Peter Jackson, Housebound follows a woman dealing with the triple threats of house arrest, potential ghosts, and having to live with her mother. Morgana O’Reilly (TV movie Safe House) is the criminal facing eight months home detention with an annoying Mum (Rima Te Wiata). Jaquie Brown Diaries director Gerard Johnstone’s film debut won near universal praise, and the remake rights sold to New Line in the US. Fangoria loved its mixture of "fantastic comedy" and mystery and it was nominated for ten Moas, including Best Film.
This long-running factual series aims to celebrate "what diversity really means for all New Zealanders", by exploring the people and culture of Kiwi neighbourhoods. Four stories per episode are presented by a personality with links to the 'hood. The hosts include actors Madeleine Sami, Shimpal Lelisi and Yoson An, musicians King Kapisi and Tami Neilson, tennis player Marina Erakovic and designer Sean Kelly. Made by Satellite Media for TVNZ, six seasons had been made up to 2018. Neighbourhood was nominated for Best Information Series at the 2012 NZ Television Awards.
Former pop singer Ngaire Fuata grew up in Whakatāne thinking she was Māori. Her father Fu, from the tiny Pacific island of Rotuma — population 2000 — had long given up explaining where it was (even to his Dutch wife Marion). In this Tagata Pasifika documentary, Ngaire’s beloved father takes ill, so she visits his birthplace with her eight-year-old daughter Ruby. One flight to Nadi, a drive to Suva and a three-day boat ride later, they reach the island during the magical Fara season. Salat marked the documentary directing debut of Whole of the Moon actor Nikki Si'ulepa.
Creating and playing all of the main characters in Super City made for a "physically exhausting" experience for Madeleine Sami. But the hard yakka paid off, with the first season winning Sami a best actress gong and rave reviews. The show weaved the storylines of very different Aucklanders (five in season one, and four new characters in season two): including a ditzy Indian cheerleader, an Iranian male taxi driver obsessed with Māori culture, and a homeless woman. Taika Waititi (Boy) directed the first series; Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding) took over for season two.
It’s Samoan Language Week and Tom Natoealofa says “Talofa!” to kick off Tagata Pasifika's Aotearoa award-nominated coverage of the 2011 Polynesian Blue Pacific Music Awards. Natoealofa co-hosts with Angela Tiatia, from the TelstraClear Pacific (now Vodafone) Events Centre in Manukau. The awards honour everything from gospel to urban. Nesian Mystik take out a trifecta including the big one, and Ladi 6 also wins. In the last clip Annie Crummer picks up a Lifetime Achievement gong, and the Ponsonby Methodist Church Choir perform her song ‘See What Love Can Do’.
Interactivity with viewers was at the heart of TVNZ bilingual youth series I AM TV. Launched at a time when social networking website Bebo was still king, I AM TV enhanced audience participation via online competitions, sharing amateur videos, and encouraging fans to send in questions during live interviews. Te reo and tikanga Māori featured heavily in the series, which showcased music videos, sports, pranks, interviews and travel around Aotearoa. Hosts over the five years the show was on air included Kimo Houltham, Candice Davis and Mai Time's Olly Coddington.
Hosts Olly Coddington, Gabrielle Paringatai and Candice Davis front this TVNZ youth series from the era of Bebo and Obama. The series flavours youth TV fare (music videos, sport, online competitions) with reo and tikanga. This final episode from the show’s first year is set around a roof party on top of Auckland’s TVNZ HQ. Hip hop dance crews, Shortland Street stars and DJs are mixed with clips of the year’s 'best of' moments: field reports (from robot te reo to toilet advice and office Olympics) and special guests (from rapper Savage to actor Te Kohe Tuhaka playing Scrabble).
Actor Robbie Magasiva and discus champ Beatrice Faumuina oversee this hour-long Tagata Pasifika 20th birthday celebration. Presenters past and present survey changes in the Aotearoa PI community over the show’s run: from education, arts and culture (Ardijah, OMC, Michel Tuffery’s corned beef bulls and the Naked Samoans), to political pioneers (Mark Gosche, Winnie Laban), and sports heroes (All Black icons Jones, Lomu and Umaga). Among those talking about the show’s importance to NZ Pasifika culture are Helen Clark, Annie Crummer and many others.
Tala Pasifika was a Pasifika drama series which grew from workshops aimed at upskilling Pasifika screen talents. The first six teleplays debuted on TV One in 1996 as part of magazine show Tagata Pasifika. Two more screened in their own slots in 1999. Instigated by Stephen Stehlin and Pomau Papali'i, Tala Pasifika was the first drama series to showcase Samoan culture. Don Selwyn and Ruth Kaupua were brought on to produce. Among those supporting the workshops or the resulting series were NZ On Air, the NZ Film Commission, Creative NZ and Justine Simei-Barton's Pacific Theatre.
Teen actors Nikki Si'ulepa and Toby Fisher won acclaim in Ian Mune's fourth feature as director. Si'ulepa plays a Samoan street kid who meets a well-off white teen, when both are facing mortality in a hospital ward. The co-production between NZ and Canada (where it debuted on cable TV) won over critics in both nations. "Si'ulepa dominates the camera and the action with a natural authority", raved Metro. Moon scooped the gongs at the 1996 TV Guide Awards (including for originating screenwriter Richard Lymposs); and won notice at Berlin and Giffoni film festivals.
A 'waka huia' is traditionally a treasure box to hold the revered huia feather. The multi award-winning television series of the same name records and preserves Māori culture and customs. It is presented completely in Te Reo Māori. The long-running series travels extensively to retell tribal histories, and sets a high standard of reo, seeking to interview only fluent speakers. Waka Huia also covers some of the social and political concerns of the day, taking a snapshot of Māori history. Created by the late Whai Ngata, Waka Huia is a tāonga for future generations.
Tagata Pasifika is a magazine-style show with items and interviews focusing on Pacific Island communities in Aotearoa. Debuting on 4 April 1987, it features coverage of Pacific Island cultural events like the Pasifika festival, plus longer documentaries. It is the only show focusing on PIs on mainstream New Zealand television. After TVNZ announced that its Māori and Pacific shows would no longer be made in-house, Tagata Pasifika veterans Stephen Stehlin, Ngaire Fuata and John Utanga took over production in 2015 through their company SunPix. Website TP+ launched in 2018.