Kiwi-born Samoan Nathaniel Lees began acting on stage in 1975, and on screen in 1984. Since then he has become a leading force in the development of Pacific Island theatre in Aotearoa, and brought his distinctive baritone voice to everything from The Billy T James Show to The Matrix.
Toby Mills began as an actor (eg. short films Mananui and The Find). After managing theatre company Te Rakau Hua o te Wa o Tapu, he took up directing, and in 2000 was awarded for series Nga Morehu, which profiled Māori elders. Mills works often with his partner Moana Maniapoto; together they have won awards for docos on Syd Jackson and carver Pakaariki Harrison. Mills also helmed te reo short Te Po Uriuri.
Jim Moriarty's screen career has ranged from 70s soap Close to Home and Rowley Habib's The Protestors, to starring in mock-doco The Waimate Conspiracy and playing Dad in The Strength of Water. Committed to theatre as a tool for change, he has often worked with troubled youth (eg 2003 documentary Make or Break). Moriarty's directing work includes TV's Mataku, and a stage musical of Once Were Warriors.
Larger than life and the ultimate showband performer, Prince Tui Teka's resume included years on the international circuit with the Maori Troubadours and the Maori Volcanics. A successful solo career and love songs like ‘E Ipo’, alongside roles in films like Savage Islands and Came a Hot Friday have ensured his name is listed in New Zealand entertainment history.
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.
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.
Co-creator of anthology series Mataku, Bradford Haami is a producer, director and scriptwriter as well as an author, lecturer and Māori historian. His passion for storytelling and expertise in Māori culture has seen him work on television productions and act as a consultant to numerous local and international drama, documentary and features over the past two decades.
Fred Renata segued from electrical engineering into film, after joining the camera crew on Merata Mita's first and only dramatic feature, Mauri (1987). He went on to work on pioneering Māori drama series E Tipu e Rea. Since then Renata's work as a director of photography has crossed all mediums, from music videos and commercials, to multiple episodes of teen hit Being Eve and hit feature Mt Zion. He has also shot many documentaries (Poi E - The Story of Our Song, Hotere), often with Māori themes. In 2003 Renata scored an NZ Television award for his work on TV series Street Legal.
Globetrotting music legend Dalvanius Prime energised small-town Patea and beyond, after managing to get a song in te reo onto the radio, then right to the top of the New Zealand charts. Aside from 'Poi E', the larger than life singer turned producer presented TV's Sweet Soul Music, and composed for the screen — including 1989 documentary Carmen and his award-winning work on classic Barry Barclay film Ngati (1987). Plans to make an animated Poi E fantasy failed to take flight, before Dalvanius passed on 3 October 2002. His life and work is celebrated in two documentaries: TV's Dalvanius and Poi E - The Movie.
Actor Matariki Whatarau has appeared on screens both big (co-starring as reggae musician Tau, in road movie The Pā Boys) and small (Go Girls). In 2015 he began playing a metrosexual Māori accountant out of touch with his culture, in acclaimed TV comedy Find Me a Māori Bride. He went on to portray Exponents bassist Dave Gent in TV movie Why Does Love? The award-winning theatre actor (I, George Nepia) trained at drama school Toi Whakaari. Also a singer, Whatarau has made screen appearances as part of The Modern Māori Quartet, including co-hosting TV's My Party Song. He presented 2015's My Reggae Song.