Westside - First Episode

Television, 2015 (Full Length Episode)

A prequel to classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune, Westside travels back in time to meet young Rita (Antonia Prebble), Ted (David de Lautour) and their son Wolf West, on the make in West Auckland. This first episode opens with Ted leaving Mt Eden prison, then sets him on a safe-cracking plot that is aided by the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Prebble played Loretta West in Outrageous, and first took on the role of Rita in flashbacks from season four. Devised by Outrageous creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, Westside won acclaim: "all the hallmarks of a classic", said Stuff.

Weekly Review No. 215 - New Zealand Cameraman in Singapore

Short Film, 1945 (Full Length)

This 1945 newsreel reports on the repatriation of New Zealand prisoners held in Japanese camps during the war in the Pacific. Cameraman Stan Wemyss (grandfather of Russell Crowe) ranges across Asia with the RNZAF — from Changi in Singapore, to camps in Java (Indonesia), and Siam (Thailand). The narration notes grimly that “the movie camera does not record the stench of death”; and returned PoW, Dr Johns of Auckland, implores for the sake of the children: “that the experiences that we have gone through at the hands of the Japanese shall never, never again be possible.”

Weekly Review No. 60 - The First Episode

Short Film, 1942 (Full Length)

Despite the misleading numbering, this October 1942 film marked the first of the National Film Unit's long-running Weekly Review series. The NFU had been established a year earlier to promote the war effort via newsreels screened in movie theatres. In a meta first clip, Kiwi soldiers watch an NFU film in a makeshift outdoor cinema. Then war readiness is demonstrated via army exercises — including on Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where “Māori and Pākehā are working together, mounting machine guns for their common defence.” Finally: Red Cross parcels are prepared for NZ prisoners of war.

The Killing of Kane

Television, 1971 (Full Length)

Groundbreaking 1971 tele-drama The Killing of Kane tells a story of loyalty and corruption amidst the ‘New Zealand Wars’ of the 1860s. Incorporating documentary ‘interludes’, the story involves the predicament of a pair of Pākehā deserters involved in a attack by Māori resistance leader Titokowaru on a Taranaki redoubt. Stellar performances in the dramatic scenes saw Chris Thomson-directed Kane attract praise. It was the first time the controversial subject of colonial conflict had been portrayed on our TV screens. It was also the first local drama shot in colour.

Celia

Film, 2018 (Trailer)

Directed by award-winning current affairs journalist Amanda Millar, this documentary celebrates the life of equality advocate Celia Lashlie. The first female prison officer in a male prison in New Zealand, Lashlie fought to get people the tools for making responsible decisions, from female prisoners to fatherless boys to impoverished children. Lashlie had a particular focus on empowering mothers. The documentary was filmed over the last months of her life, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Celia premiered at the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival.

Act of Murder

Television, 1993 (Excerpts)

This film documents Miranda Harcourt taking her stageplay Verbatim (written by Harcourt and William Brandt) to prison audiences. The play is a six-character monologue made up of accounts of violent crime, all performed by Harcourt. Director Shirley Horrocks captures the reactions of the prison inmates watching their own lives unfold on stage. Harcourt’s powerful performance is augmented with revealing testimonies of the broken men and women who agree to be interviewed. The documentary won the premier prize at the 1993 Media Peace Awards.

Bella

Short Film, 1998 (Full Length)

During a stint in prison for importing drugs, Bill Payne reinvented himself and became a writer. Payne went on to write Staunch (an acclaimed non-fiction book about gangs), short stories, a play, and two short films. Bella was the first. It follows life behind bars for Bella (Mitch Thomas), a defiantly proud transsexual and part-time tattooist, whose mere presence arouses the ire of one of the prison guards. But the guard's taunts are more complicated than they appear. The guard is played by Tim Gordon, who would later play All Blacks coach Graham Henry in telemovie The Kick.

Queer Nation - Farm Boys

Television, 2003 (Full Length)

Part One looks at lesbian relationships - how different are they? A light-hearted romp through subjects such as butch and femme, monogamy, lesbian bed death, and raising children. Two gay farmers feature next, and talk about farming in the Waikato, and their jobs as horse trainer and shearer. Part Three takes us inside Mt Eden Prison where we meet a lesbian prison officer. She talks about working in this tough, testosterone-filled environment and reveals how observing men living in these conditions has made her a more compassionate person. 

Dare to Be Free

Television, 2004 (Full Length)

During World War ll South Islander Sandy Thomas was fighting in Crete, when he was wounded and captured by the German Army. Unwilling to spend the war in custody he repeatedly plotted escape from hospital, to the point his Houdini efforts became a running joke among his captors. Nevertheless a successful escape attempt from the Salonika Prisoner of War camp would have him fleeing across the continent on his wounded leg, in an attempt to reunite with his comrades. Now retired, having reached the rank of Major General, Walter Babington Thomas recounts his escapades.

Eat Your Cake; I'm a Vietnamese Refugee

Short Film, 2010 (Full Length)

This short documentary follows refugee Mitchell Pham from a Vietnam War prison camp to a new home in New Zealand. Director Sally Tran — a 2013 Killer Films Internship Scholarship recipient — uses an interview with Pham as an adult, and live action mixed with animation to recreate the harrowing childhood journey. DIY more than CGI, the animation process was based on Vietnamese folded paper-craft. Requiring 20 volunteers, the 10,000 animated pieces of paper (and a rich score from The Sound Room) provide suggestive weight to Pham’s story of survival and courage.