The Dominant Species is a loopy look at the relationship between people and cars in 1975 Aotearoa ... from an alien's eye view. Nifty animation and special effects intersperse the automotive anthropological survey of Mark IIs, VWs, anti-car activism and car-washing. There's a dream sequence involving a ladykilling Jesus Christ atop a car, and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries scores a rugby match traffic jam (also used in a famous scene in Apocalypse Now). Filmheads will note the tripped out assembly is flush with formative industry talents (see this guide by director Derek Morton).
As Syd Jackson’s daughter Ramari puts it, there are some who sit on the couch and moan, and others who get up and take action. Winner of Best Māori Programme at the 2003 NZ TV Awards, this episode of Ngā Reo profiles the late fighter for Māori, women's and homosexual rights. The "warrior" intellectual helped put Treaty debate on the agenda, and led Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa and the Clerical Workers Union. His nephew, broadcaster Willie Jackson, credits his uncle with rousing "the sleeping giant" of Māori activism in the 70s. Jackson would die in September 2007.
Journalist Kim Webby's Price of Peace is a portrait of Tūhoe activist Tame Iti, whose family Webby has known for 20 plus years. After the 2007 police raids, Iti was one of four to go on trial, accused of plotting terrorist activities. Webby’s film ranges widely from early land grievances to modern-day jail cells — and a police apology. NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder praised the result for balancing a personal focus on Iti, with “a powerfully affecting” examination of the 2007 raids, which placed the raids in "the wider context of Tūhoe history and the process of reconciliation”.
This 1997 Inside New Zealand documentary looks at the evolution of modern Māori political activism, from young 70s rebels Ngā Tamatoa, to Te Kawariki's protest at Waitangi Day in 1995. Directed by Paora Maxwell, it is framed around interviews with key figures (Syd Jackson, Hone Harawira, Ken Mair, Mike Smith, Annette Sykes, Eva Rickard, Joe Hawke). The interviewees explore events, and the kaupapa behind their activism, from thoughts on sovereignty, and the Treaty of Waitangi, through to symbolism (tree felling, land marches) and being kaitiaki of the environment.
Greenies meet The Castle in this 2014 film from first-time feature director Anton Steel. The Z-Nail Gang tells the story of locals joining to fight plans to dig an opencast goldmine in nearby bush — using nails in car tyres, Santa suits and a rap song, instead of monkey wrenches. The making of this down-home take on eco-activism was also a grassroots effort, with the film made by harnessing community support in the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke. At the 2014 NZ Film Awards it was nominated for Best Self-Funded Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Rare).
Taking in depression and prosperity, this edition of the Kiwi social history series explores the boom and bust cycles of the economy. Stories include TJ Edmonds, of baking powder fame, who made his fortune by hawking his wares around Christchurch before opening his iconic factory. Factory workforces expanded, and with them unions. Worker dissatisfaction with pay and conditions led to the Queen Street riot of 1932, a defining moment in NZ history retold here by protest leader Jim Edwards' son. Edwards’ real estate agent granddaughter is also interviewed.
This homegrown Erin Brockovich story follows former Whakatāne sawmill worker Joe Harawira and his long battle to reveal the impact that workplace toxins have had on his community. In the 80s after being afflicted by health issues, Harawira noticed co-workers getting sick. In 1988 he helped found SWAP (Sawmill Workers Against Poisons) and began investigating the effects of exposure to dioxins, a by-product of timber treatment. The Joe versus the mills crusade screened on Māori Television, and won Best Popular Documentary at the 2012 NZ Television Awards.
In the 1950s thousands of Pacific Islanders came to Aotearoa to meet a labour shortage. They faced racism, and in the 1970s, notorious dawn raids by police. In 1971 a group of young gang members and students set up the Polynesian Panthers to stand up for the rights of the Pasifika community. They ran food co-ops, homework centres, and lobbied for support services. In this Dan Salmon-directed documentary, presenter Nevak Rogers explores the inspirations, events (Bastion Point, Springbok Tour) and legacy of the movement co-founded by her uncle Will 'llolahia.
Just after midnight on November 18, 1982, Neil Roberts, a 22-year old anarchist, exploded a bag of gelignite outside the Whanganui police computer centre, killing himself instantly. In this short film, director William Keddell uses a fictional character — Eric, a young man awoken in bed at the exact moment of detonation — to take a psychological road-trip exploring the events leading up to what is arguably NZ’s most famous case of homegrown political terrorism. Real-life friends and associates of Roberts make cameo appearances in supporting roles.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".