Described by author Emma Jean Kelly as a flamboyant "champion of New Zealand culture", Jonathan Dennis was the founding director of The Film Archive in 1981 and led the organisation into a bicultural era. Dennis, who headed the Film Archive for nine years, was praised for making films more accessible. He also made documentaries (Mouth Wide Open, Mana Waka) and presented Radio New Zealand's Film Show.
Should Clive Sowry ever choose to enter Mastermind, his knowledge of the National Film Unit will give his competitors a definite run for their money. Sowry worked at the government filmmaking organisation for 14 years, including nine as the NFU's archivist. He went on to undertake a programme that saved 100s of local films, and has written often about filmmaking in New Zealand — including for NZ On Screen.
A pioneer of New Zealand film and star of 1940 classic Rewi's Last Stand, Ramai Hayward is credited as Aotearoa’s first Māori filmmaker, camerawoman, and scriptwriter. At the 2005 Wairoa Māori Film Festival she received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Māori filmmaking; the following year Hayward was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. She passed away on 3 July 2014.
As the final manager of the National Film Unit, Doug Eckhoff had the unenviable task of presiding over its demise as the government’s film production agency, and the sale of its assets. Earlier he was a key figure in television news, from the days of the NZ Broadcasting Corporation through to the birth of Television New Zealand. He was also a long-serving trustee of the New Zealand Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga).
As manager of the National Film Unit, David Henry Fowler oversaw the organisation's move from Miramar to Lower Hutt. In 35 years of filmmaking he worked in both government and private sectors: writing, directing, and producing memorable films ranging from commercials to features. After his career at the top was cut short by ill-health, he continued to pass on his knowledge and experience in advisory roles. Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6421 B57
Actor Grant Tilly, who died in April 2012, displayed his gifts for understated comedy in movies Middle Age Spread and Carry Me Back. The versatile Tilly had done it all — from acclaimed theatre performances (often in Roger Hall plays) to screen roles that took in everything from adventure movies and landmark historical dramas (The Governor), to children's TV, sitcoms (Gliding On), and many voice-overs.
Tama Poata's wide-ranging contributions to our culture can be glimpsed through his appearances on-screen: from campaigns for Māori land rights (in 1975 doco Te Matakite O Aotearoa) and against the Springbok tour (Patu!), to his many acting roles. He also directed documentaries and wrote landmark 1987 movie Ngati, the first feature written (and directed) by Māori.
Throughout his 50 year career, John O’Shea was a pioneer and a champion of the independent New Zealand film industry. His name was synonymous with Pacific Film Productions, which he ran for over 20 years after Pacific founder Roger Mirams left for Australia. O’Shea was involved in the establishment of the New Zealand Film Commission, Ngā Taonga and the Wellington Film Society.
An iconoclast with a bent for experimentation, director Paul Maunder brought the mixed flavours of social realism and the arthouse to New Zealand screens in the 1960s and 70s, before shifting stages and leaving the government's National Film Unit, to concentrate on theatre. His second feature Sons for the Return Home (1979) as the first film to dramatise the experience of Pacific Islanders living in contemporary New Zealand.
Legendary filmmaker Rudall Hayward, MBE, directed seven features over five decades — decades in which the concept of Kiwi movie-making was still an oxymoron, or meant a foreigner was in charge. Inspired by NZ’s cross-cultural history, Hayward remade his own Rewi’s Last Stand in 1940. Later he married Rewi star Ramai Te Miha, launching a filmmaking partnership that lasted until Rudall’s death in May 1974.