Stephen Stehlin has been involved with flagship Pacific show Tagata Pasifika for over 30 years. Alongside Ngaire Fuata and John Utanga, he launched SunPix in 2015. The company took over Tagata Pasifika after Television New Zealand outsourced its stable of Māori and Pacific programmes. Of Samoan descent, Stehlin has been honoured as both a Samoan matai chief, and as a Member of the NZ Order of Merit.
What's emerged is a New Zealand Pacific culture — which is marvellous because it's become a defining feature of being a New Zealander. Stephen Stehlin in The NZ Herald, 3 April 2017
At a time when Pasifika people were rarely seen on-screen, Tagata Pasifika was a bastion of Pacific stories. For Oscar Kightley, it was "more than just a TV programme" — it meant on-screen representation for his Pasifika community. In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, Kightley also recalls how impressed his mum was with presenter Susana Hukui's "impeccable" dress sense. Veteran Tagata Pasifika producer Stephen Stehlin talks about working on one of Aotearoa's longest-running series, and the importance of presenting stories about our all-important "front yard".
In this March 2015 episode of long-running magazine-style show Tagata Pasifika, Sandra Kailahi explores the factors that lead some young pasifika mothers to abandon their newborns. Then hosts Marama T-Pole and Tom Natoealofa interview actor Teuila Blakely, who had her son at 17, about what it was like being a teenage mother, and what needs to change to support others in that situation. Also featured are stories about the Samoan King’s son converting to the Mormon faith, and allegations New Zealand has been conducting surveillance on its Pacific neighbours.
This series sees Kiwi-born chef Robert Oliver roving the Pacific, exploring local food culture, and looking to inspire tourist resorts to include indigenous cuisine traditions in their offerings. This opening episode of the second series sees Oliver return to where he grew up: Fiji. In Ra Province he buys local and goes bush (cress and prawns) and sea shopping (reef octopus and seaweed), to help Volivoli Beach Resort upgrade its menu from backpacker fare to upmarket local delicacies. The series was inspired by Oliver’s award-winning book Me’a Kai.
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.
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’.
Comedians Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea'i launched their stage act in 2003. For the next 13 years they toured Laughing Samoan shows through Australasia, the Pacific Islands and beyond. Skits lampooned PI life in Niu Sila; subjects ranged from 'island time' to funerals, and included popular characters like Aunty Tala (played by Fepulea'i). The eight-part series was conceived by Aaron Taouma and produced by TVNZ’s Pasifika department. Pairing sketches and interviews with excerpts from a Laughing Samoans theatre tour, it was given an 11pm timeslot on TV2.
This 2010 series adapted the theatre comedy of Laughing Samoans Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea’i into a show on TV2, pairing sketches and interviews with excerpts from their stage show. In this opening episode Aunty Tala (Fepulea’i) receives a sign that a prospective husband is in Wellington and takes her niece Fai (Ete) to nab him. Their tour of the capital includes Te Papa, Cuba Street, The Backbencher Pub near Parliament, and Les Mills gym. Aunty Tala flirts with All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu, opera singer Ben Makisi, Prime Minister John Key and actor Robbie Magasiva.
In this 2010 Tagata Pasifika story, reporter Adrian Stevanon follows efforts by a group of Pacific Island mariners to preserve the traditions and skills of the great Polynesian voyagers — as an armada of canoes from the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Fiji and Aotearoa takes to the seas of Te Moananui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean). Stevanon has zero sailing hours when he joins the Pan-Pacific crew of Hine Moana in the Cook Islands, en route to Samoa. Unsure “if this city boy can handle the high seas”, he takes time to find his sea legs, but eventually gets on the foi (tiller) and into ‘vaka mode’.
Featuring extensive footage from their live shows, this episode of Tagata Pasifika takes a look at comedy phenomenon The Naked Samoans. Viewers may recognise early versions of a number of characters who later featured on animated hit bro'Town. Co-founder Oscar Kightley talks about the group's "licorice allsorts" cultural makeup, and how prejudice is not the same as racism. Featuring one or two moments of comical censorship, the episode captures the often raw, non-PC island humour that would filter into five seasons of bro'Town, and two Sione's Wedding movies.
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.
A Tagata Pasifika special looking at Pacific Islanders living in a Māori world. It celebrates the mingling of Polynesian cultures in Aotearoa through similarities (language, spirituality, land, extended family) and differences (clothes, food). Stories include: Samoan Beau Rasmussen who married Moana on the East Coast; Niuean Toa Luka who married a Māori woman from Northland; Tongan/Māori lawyer Kahungunu Afeaki and Whetu Fala, who grew up in Wanganui with a Samoan father and Māori mother.
Launched in 1992, Marae is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. It aims to keep its audience in touch with the issues — political or otherwise — that affect Māori, and explain kauapa Māori from a Māori perspective. The Marae Digipoll is seen as a respected barometer of matters Māori. Marae was relaunched briefly in October 2010 as Marae Investigates, presented by Scotty Morrison and Jodi Ihaka Marae (and later Miriama Kamo) . Screening on TV One, Marae is presented half in english and half in te reoi. It is now made by company Pango Productions.
Māori Battalion - March To Victory tells the story of the New Zealand Army's (28th) Māori Battalion, which fought in campaigns during World War ll. Director and writer Tainui Stephens sets out in the feature-length documentary to tell the stories of five men who served with the unit, and also "capture how they felt about it". Narration by actor George Henare, remembrances, visits to historic sites, archival footage, and graphic stills create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion. Stephens writes about the film in the backgrounder.
This seven-part documentary series chronicled the history of modern Māori music, from the turn of the century and Rotorua tourist concert parties, through to the showband era (Howard Morrison Quartet, Māori Volcanics, Māori Hi-Five) and reggae and hip hop. The programme ranged from ‘Ten Guitars’ to Tui Teka, from Guide Rangi doing poi to The Patea Māori Club, from opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa to Upper Hutt Posse, Ardijah, Herbs and Moana and the Moa Hunters. The acclaimed 1990 series was directed by Tainui Stephens (My Party Song, The New Zealand Wars).
Directed by Tainui Stephens, this 1990 TVNZ series surveyed Māori contemporary music. This second episode looks at the showband era (1950s - 70s), when musicians mixed genres (electric guitar, rock’n’roll) with Māori culture, to make a unique contribution to Kiwi show business. Acts like The Howard Morrison Quartet, The Māori Volcanics, The Quin Tikis and The Māori Hi-Fives took songs from marae to international cabarets. Music historian Chris Bourke praised the series for marking the role of showbands in the whakapapa of entertainers from Billy T James to Rim D Paul.
In this episode from the 1990 documentary series chronicling modern Māori music, the spotlight shines on popular Māori vocalists. Singers from several genres feature — from bass baritone Inia Te Wiata to country singer Dennis Marsh, to Bunny Walters, who sang covers on mainstream TV music shows before launching a successful pop career. Jazz and cabaret performer Ricky May is remembered as a special talent, and Sir Howard Morrison reflects on the toll his life in show business took on his young family. Tainui Stephens (The NZ Wars) directed the seven-part series.
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.
The annual interschool celebration of Māori and Pasifika dance began in 1976 at Hillary College in Otara. By the 21st Century, nearly 100,000 spectators and participants attended and it was sponsored by ASB. Over the years Polyfest was covered by both the news, and specialist shows like Tagata Pasifika and Marae. Full coverage was first taken on by Front of the Box Productions in the 2000s; later it went back to TVNZ's Māori and Pacific Programme section, followed by Tikilounge Productions. Coverage of the kapa haka stage was picked up by Māori Television.