Actor [Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rarotonga]
Hawke's Bay teen Taungaroa Emile had only acted in school plays, before he made an award-winning screen debut in landmark movie Once Were Warriors (1994). Emile played shy but rebellious teenager Boogie Heke once again in the 1999 sequel. In-between, he starred as a teen ex-con in movie romance Flight of the Albatross. Since then Emile has starred in episodes of Taonga and te reo series Aroha, and appeared in Shortland Street, acclaimed feature No 2, and 2011 TV film Tangiwai - A Love Story. In 2004 he played one of the soldiers in Taika Waititi short Tama Tū, which was invited to over 40 film festivals.
Taungaroa's got a real ability to work the cameras. He looks wonderful on screen because he's got his own charm and sense of character. Once Were Warriors scriptwriter Riwia Brown in Mana magazine, Winter 1996
Feature film Vai ranges across the Pacific — from an eight-year-old girl's drama-filled day in Fiji, to a sacred moment in an Aotearoa forest. The film follows a similiar collaborative filmmaking model to Waru (2017), only this time the link between each story is a female one. Many of the stories are also connected by water (vai). Vai premiered at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. The nine Pasifika women filmmakers are Sharon and Nicole Whippy, Becs Arahanga, Amberley Jo Aumua, Matasila Freshwater, Dianna Fuemana, Mīria George, 'Ofa-ki Guttenbeil-Likiliki and Marina Alofagia McCartney.
Belief examines the 2007 death of young Wainuiomata mother Janet Moses during an attempted exorcism. It uses a blend of interviews and reenactments to explore a tragedy which director David Stubbs believes was caused by "fear and love mixing and turning into hysteria". In 2009 five members of Janet’s family were charged in relation to her death. Belief debuted in the 2015 NZ International Film Festival before screening on TV One. Herald critic Peter Calder called it "compelling and heartbreaking". David Stubbs was judged Best Documentary Director at the 2017 Moa Awards.
Christmas Eve 1953: Cricketer Bob Blair (Ryan O'Kane) is in South Africa, days away from batting for New Zealand. His fiancée Nerissa Love (Maddigan's Quest's Rose McIver) is boarding an ill-fated train, which in this excerpt will plunge into the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, in the country's worst rail disaster. The Dominion Post's Linda Burgess found this TV movie retelling of the tragic romance "first-rate", noting "consistently excellent" performances from O'Kane, McIver, and Miranda Harcourt as Nerissa's wary mother. Tangiwai won four NZ TV awards, including best cinematography.
The video was directed by Mark Williams (aka MC Slave) and the concept was born over yum cha sessions with the band. In the clip the Fat Freddy's crew are abducted by mad scientist and former child prodigy musician Boondigga (Taungaroa Emile). Taunted by FFD's soul sounds, he conducts a lab experiment to extract the music from their brains.
This award-winning telefilm imagines the effects of a major earthquake on New Zealand’s capital city, and how its citizens react to chaos, death, isolation and tsunami. It was completed in 2008 — before Christchurch took Wellington’s mantle as NZ's shakiest city, and made Aftershock's imagined scenes a reality. Aftershock was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group, and written by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil). The following week saw the debut of Aftershock - Would You Survive?, which put a real-life family through a three-day survival test.
This much praised documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective documentary, part historical reenactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. This excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua “made the city of God on Earth”.
Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), the matriarch of a Fijian family living in Auckland, feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. She demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast, at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren — Soul, Charlene, Hibiscus, Erasmus, and Tyson — reluctantly turn up. But tiffs send the day into chaos. Nanna calls the whole thing off. This lovo-warmed love letter to his Mt Roskill hometown was the debut film for director Toa Fraser (Dean Spanley). It screened at many festivals; it won the World Cinema audience award at Sundance in 2006.
Set in a Grey Lynn fish'n'chip shop, this clip delivers a killer kai moana concept, when it's revealed that the greasy takeaway is merely a front for the club downstairs. Winner of Best Music Video at the 2006 Vodafone NZ Music Awards, the video features a host of cameos in addition to the members of Fat Freddy's Drop: including Danielle Cormack, Ladi6, John Campbell and Carol Hirschfeld. It was directed by Mark 'Slave' Williams, sometime MC for the band. The track was part of Fat Freddy's first studio album Based on a True Story, one of the biggest-selling in Kiwi history.
A taonga in Māori culture is a treasured thing, whether tangible (eg a letter, photo, or heirloom) or intangible (eg a family story). Māori Television series Taonga wove documentary techniques with re-enactments, to tell stories of taonga. This full-length episode sees the arrival of a dramatic telegram for a woman (Miriama McDowell from Hope and Wire) whose husband (Tama Tū's Taungaroa Emile) is off fighting during World War ll. Michael Bennett was nominated for a Qantas Award for Best Non-Drama Direction for the episode.
This animated TV comedy series is a modern day fairytale following the adventures of five kids growing up in one of Auckland's grungier suburbs. With a fearless, un-PC wit and Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos, it managed to be primetime and family-friendly. The popular show was made by Firehorse Films, and developed from the brazen and poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. Screening on TV3 for five series it won Best Comedy at the NZ Screen Awards three years running and a Qantas Award for Ant Sang's production design. "Morningside for life!"
One summer’s day, teenaged Jayde (Atarangi Manley) and Wiremu (Darcey-Ray Flavell-Hudson) tag along with their older siblings on a trip to a local swimming hole. Young passions ignite by the Rotorua hot pool. Later tragedy occurs and one of them faces lost innocence and the ritual of tangi, while bearing a secret. Michael Bennett’s short — cutting between the day and its aftermath — was shot in his Te Arawa home turf. It was selected for the 2005 Berlin Film Festival. 'Mu' was an early role for Flavell-Hudson (Mt Zion, Ghost Chips ad fame).
Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
Te reo anthology series Aroha looks at love in all its different forms. This episode follows Tiare (Taungaroa Emile from Once Were Warriors), a shy young Rastafarian caught between several rocks and many hard places. He struggles to tell his sister’s friend Erena (Stacey Daniels Morrison) that he loves her, while grappling with whether to tell his ex Black Fern sister that her boyfriend — and father of her child — is cheating. Luckily, all his problems seem to have one solution…a good old game of rugby. The episode was directed by the late Melissa Wikaire, one of Aroha's creators.
Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.
Billy Williams (Cliff Curtis) is enthusiastic and likeable, but a bit hopeless. When the driving force behind the Waimatua School 75th Jubilee is killed in an accident, Billy takes over, determined to prove himself. Meanwhile, the arrival of ex-international rugby player Max Seddon (Kevin Smith) forces Billy's wife Pauline (Theresa Healey) to question the choices she has made in her life. This affectionate comedy drama about small town New Zealand life marked Cliff Curtis's first lead role in a feature film — and actor Michael Hurst's first time directing a movie.
Lawless saw Kevin Smith in one of his biggest roles: as undercover cop turned private investigator John Lawless. The character's career arc was told across three tele-movies. In this self-titled debut, Lawless struggles with divided loyalties while working for a dodgy drug lord (Joel Tobeck). Next thing, a robbery leaves Lawless framed by the good guys. This stylish Kiwi take on American crime shows won good reviews and a stash of awards, including gongs for Tobeck, co-star Angela Dotchin, director Chris Martin-Jones and best drama programme.
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 film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.