"It’s more than just a sport: it’s honour, glory, victory." This 2016 Loading Doc follows knight-in-waiting Martainn Cuff as he and his Steel Thorns team prepare for battle in the "misunderstood sport" of full contact medieval combat. The Taranaki ex-soldier carries 33 kilograms of armour and the burden of a leadership role into the fray, at the national champs. The short documentary was made by Ryan Heron and Andy Deere, who were Whanganui school friends of Cuff’s. Heron and Deere direct commercials; they previously teamed up for award-winning short comedy Return.
Following the big-screen success of Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls came another chronicle of a Kiwi entertainment legend: sometime Taranaki bandito, giggling newsreader and crooner Billy T James. The film uses remastered footage and an impressive cast of interviews to capture his path from cabaret singer to fame, fan clubs and eventual financial and bodily collapse. Te Movie director Ian Mune originally cast James in the classic Came a Hot Friday, as the Māori-Mexican Tainuia Kid; Te Movie co-producer Tom Parkinson played a hand in making Billy T a TV star.
Crush is a tale of simmering sexuality set in Rotorua. Moral or sexual ambiguity pervades the narrative of conflicted desire. Its mix of blocked-up writer, spurting mud-pools, infatuated teen, eel farm, American femme fatale (Marcia Gay Harden), noir motels, limp pongas and wheelchairs, plays out in a symbolic NZ landscape not seen before (or since). Director Alison Maclean's debut feature (which she co-wrote with Anne Kennedy) played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Author Maurice Shadbolt went before the cameras to play father to the main character, in this adaptation of his acclaimed coming of age novel. Teen Nick (Paul O’Shea) is estranged from his family, and blaming himself for his Māori mate's climbing death. He runs away to his straight talking grandfather (Derek Hardwick) — who takes him bush — and loses his virginity to Sally (a first film role for Rebecca Gibney). Produced by Pacific Films legend John O’Shea, the NZ-German co-production was directed by Rolf Hädrich (Stop Train 349). The film debuted in NZ on television.
Marae DIY is a long-running Māori Television series that brings a tangata whenua twist to the home renovation reality format: "marae knock out their 10-year plans in just four days". This Qantas Award-winning episode heads to Manutuke Marae (south of Gisborne) mid-winter in 2006. Marae DIY creator Nevak Rogers (aka Nevak Ilolahia) has Rongowhakaata whakapapa. Alongside co-presenter Te Ori Paki, Rogers plays cheerleader as her whānau rally to meet the goals: from french doors for the kitchen, to makeovers for the nannies (including a moko by Derek Lardelli).
In this 2013 short, a possum-trapping nature boy is challenged when a woman moves into a house on the edge of the bush, looking for a fresh start. Cinematographer Ginny Loane captures the wintry central plateau landscape where the fable of life and death plays out. Director Leo Woodhead co-wrote the script with Paul Stanley Ward; the result followed Woodhead’s short Cargo (2007) to the Venice Film Festival, and won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Hong Kong Film Festival. Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) called it “a well structured, beautifully shot narrative.”
Iaheto Ah Hi's play Tautai involved an urban car thief emulating his Tokelauan fishing ancestors — only instead of hunting sharks, he hunted cars. Twelve years and 27 drafts after first seeing the play, director Michael Bennett and co-writer Gavin Strawhan intertwined Tautai's story with seven other characters, each impacted by one moment of violence. Praising the "excellent ensemble" and Don McGlashan score, Herald reviewer Peter Calder argued that Matariki delivers "a touching series of intersecting stories about the fragility of life and the redeeming power of love".
K' Rd Stories was a 2015 series of shorts celebrating one of Auckland’s most colourful strips. In this entry, Dan and Dwayne are “two lovable hustlers with an entrepreneurial spirit trying to scratch a living on the fringes of K Road”. $cratch documents the pair’s efforts to gain entry to the Las Vegas strip club, set up a pop-up tinny shop, and find a girlfriend (“a lot of girlfriends I had in the past gave me nothing but children!”). Dwayne is played by Dwayne Sisson, who co-starred with $cratch director Clint Rarm in Zoe McIntosh’s 2013 rogue-life tale The Deadly Ponies Gang.
In 2010 TVNZ’s Heartland channel celebrated the 50th anniversary of television in New Zealand by producing a decade by decade survey. This interview, taken from the 1960s instalment, sees the late Ray Columbus interviewed by Andrew Shaw. The pioneer of pop music in New Zealand reflects on the role that TV played in his career, from Club Columbus to C’Mon, to co-creating That’s Country. He muses on being a pop star in front of the camera, and working behind the scenes in television. Shaw asks him to rate the best song he’s recorded and his best TV performance.
Made to mark 100 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, Bread & Roses tells the story of pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005), who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 50s. Directed by Gaylene Preston and co-written by Graeme Tetley, the acclaimed three-hour production played on television screens, and also got a limited cinema release. Australian actor Geneviève Picot (as Sonja Davies) and Mick Rose (as her husband) won gongs for their roles at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. Bianca Zander writes about Bread & Roses here.