Keisha Castle-Hughes found fame at 12, when Whale Rider became an international hit. Her debut performance as spirited Māori girl Pai scored an Oscar nomination. She followed a variety of international roles with local success, including TV show The Almighty Johnsons and acclaim and a Qantas award for telemovie Piece of My Heart. In 2015 she joined the cast of hit series Game of Thrones.
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.
Niki Caro's near wordless Sure to Rise was nominated for best short film at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Four years later her debut feature Memory and Desire was invited to Cannes. Caro followed it with Whale Rider, winner of more than 27 awards, and still one of New Zealand's most successful films abroad. Since then Caro has directed everywhere from France to China, to mining towns in Minnesota.
Aged 17, Max Quinn joined the NZ Broadcasting Corporation as a trainee cameraman. At 25 he was filming landmark television dramas like Hunter’s Gold. In 1980 he moved into directing and producing. Since joining Dunedin’s Natural History Unit (now NHNZ) in 1987, Quinn's many talents have helped cement his reputation as one of the most experienced polar filmmakers on the globe.
David Coulson trained to be a director, but instead discovered a passion for editing. He joined TV One and worked on a range of programmes including Mortimer's Patch, before going freelance in the early 80s. Since then he has won awards for his work in feature films and commercials, and established an ongoing working relationship with Niki Caro, editing all her features from Whale Rider onwards.
Since the 1970s John Barnett has brought a host of uniquely Kiwi stories to local and international screens, from Fred Dagg and Footrot Flats, to Whale Rider, Sione's Wedding and Outrageous Fortune. As boss of production company South Pacific Pictures for 24 years, he was a driving force behind some of our landmark television dramas and feature films.
Cliff Curtis alternates a busy diet of acting in the United States (where he's forged a reputation as the actor to call on, for roles of varied ethnicity) with smaller scale New Zealand projects — including co-producing Taika Waititi smash Boy. His CV of Kiwi classics includes playing Pai's father in Whale Rider, Uncle Bully on Once Were Warriors, and bipolar chess champion Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse.
Jonathan Brough's short films have screened at Cannes, Edinburgh and America's Slamdance Film Festival. His directing CV includes episodes of Outrageous Fortune, the acclaimed The Insiders Guide to Happiness and mockumentary The Pretender, followed by a run of acclaimed Australian TV comedies (Rosehaven, The Family Law). He also edited award-winning documentary Colin McCahon: I Am.
Actor, writer and director Rawiri Paratene, ONZM, first sprang into the public eye on the iconic Play School and comedy shows like Joe and Koro. In 1999 he played gangmember Mulla Rota in the sequel to Once Were Warriors, and four years later was seen around the globe as the stubborn grandfather in Whale Rider. In 2010 he won further acclaim after starring in movie The Insatiable Moon.
Leon Narbey is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and lauded cinematographers. His talents have contributed to roughly 20 features, including Whale Rider, Desperate Remedies, The Price of Milk and No.2. Narbey's work as a director includes movies The Footstep Man and Illustrious Energy, an acclaimed drama about Chinese goldminers.