A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita - Making Waves.
Barry Barclay — director of landmark TV series Tangata Whenua and feature film Ngati — was a longtime campaigner for the right of indigenous people to tell their own stories, to their own people. In 2004 he was made an Arts Foundation Laureate, and in 2007 a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. Barclay passed away on 19 February 2008, after publishing his acclaimed book Mana Tuturu.
Tainui Stephens is a Kiwi screen taonga. Since joining Koha as a reporter in 1984, he has brought many Māori stories to television, and worked on everything from Marae to Māori Television's version of It's in the Bag. Among the notable documentaries he has directed are Māori Battalion doco March to Victory and award-winning show The New Zealand Wars. He was a producer on Vincent Ward film Rain of the Children.
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.
With his 1973 book Tangi, Witi Ihimaera became the first Māori to publish both a novel and a book of short stories. Later his book The Whale Rider inspired a feature film which won international acclaim, and became one of the highest grossing 'foreign' titles released internationally in 2003. Ihimaera's work has also seen a number of television adaptations, including landmark big city tale Big Brother, Little Sister.
Anzac Wallace made one of the most memorable debuts in New Zealand cinema when he starred as avenging guerilla leader Te Wheke in classic Māori Western Utu. The former trade union delegate followed it with movies The Silent One (1984) and Mauri (1988) and pioneering Māori TV series E Tipu E Rea. He passed away on 8 April 2019.
Libby Hakaraia has an overflowing kete of credits, covering subjects from Fat Freddy’s Drop to Apirana Ngata, Anzac Day to Anne Salmond. The ex-radio journalist had a screen apprenticeship at Kiwa Productions, where she made many docos on Māori themes. Based in Otaki, she now produces shows with partner Tainui Stephens under the Blue Bach banner, including the popular Māori Television reboot of It’s in the Bag.
Ernie Leonard spent time as a soldier, a railways clerk and public relations officer. His first television job was as an actor on Pukemanu, and he became a household name co-presenting wrestling show On the Mat. In 1986 Leonard became the first head of TVNZ's Māori Programmes Department. When he retired, a search of the TVNZ Archives database yielded 38,000 references to him or programmes he'd been associated with.
For three decades, playwright and critic Bruce Mason played intelligent, impassioned witness to many key developments in Kiwi theatre and culture; a number of them his own. His play The Pohutukawa Tree has spawned more than 180 productions, and was watched by 20 million after being adapted for the BBC. The End of the Golden Weather is both a classic solo play, and movie.
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.