Rowley Habib — also known as Rore Hapipi — was one of the first writers to bring a genuinely Māori perspective to New Zealand stage and screen. His play Death of the Land is seen as a landmark in the development of Māori theatre. In 1983 Habib won a Feltex Award for land rights drama The Protestors, part of a trio of pioneering one-off plays for television. Habib passed away on 3 April 2016.
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.
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.
Veteran actor Roy Billing has acted in so many films, TV shows and plays, his CV runs to more than 10 pages. Often cast as the straight-talking everyman, Billing has also provided award-winning screen portrayals of rugby-playing priests (Old Scores), drug barons (Underbelly), small-town mayors (The Dish) and avuncular judges (Rake).
Richard Turner’s work as a director began with poetry-based works, pioneering Māori works for television, and Squeeze (1980), New Zealand’s first gay-themed feature. Since then he has made films largely in Australia.
Robert Rakete got his screen break playing one of the teen adventurers on 80s kidult series Sea Urchins. After acting in teleplay The Protestors, he later became the enthusiastic, long-haired presenter on three different versions of music show Ready to Roll. Rakete also spent 14 years hosting a high-rating breakfast shift for Auckland's Mai FM radio station; he moved to The Breeze in 2006. In 2014 he spent time in The Wiggles, as 'the brown Wiggle'.
With a CV that includes everything from judges to Amazon queens, Alison Bruce has often been cast as the strong unsmiling type. Yet two of her biggest screen roles completely break that mould: the fraudulent but well-meaning fortune teller in 2001 feature Magik and Rose, and the eccentric mother in award-winning series Being Eve.
Since landing a national theatre award in 2007 while at high school in Christchurch, Pana Hema-Taylor has become a New Zealand screen regular, thanks to roles in features The Most Fun You Can Have Dying (as best friend to the main character) and The Dead Lands. There have also been recurring roles on television: in shows The Brokenwood Mysteries, Dirty Laundry, and Westside — as a petty criminal who ends up moonlighting as a Springbok tour protestor — and in cable series Spartacus. In 2017 he starred in TV movie Resolve as Chris Crean, who died after providing evidence on a gang attack just outside his house.
Russell Campbell has been analysing film and television for more than four decades. A longtime lecturer in film at Victoria University, Campbell’s books include Observations, a volume on New Zealand documentary — a field in which he has extensive first-hand experience.
Billy T James ranks as a key figure in the development of Kiwi comedy. Billy honed his talents as a singer and comedian on stages worldwide, then brought them to a local TV audience on throwback show Radio Times. His self-titled comedy show was a major ratings hit. His turn as the Tainuia kid in Came a Hot Friday is still fondly remembered — as is Billy T's infectious chuckle, black singlet and yellow towel.