Made in Taiwan

Television, 2006 (Full Length)

In this documentary 'Naked Samoan' Oscar Kightley, and Māori radio/TV personality Nathan Rarere use DNA technology to trace their families' ancestry. They discover that their forebears originated in Taiwan before migrating to the Pacific via Vanuatu (and the Cook Islands, for those going on to Aotearoa). On the DNA trail they meet locals and find striking cultural similarities — even in Taiwan, where the indigenous people look Polynesian, and provide a haka-like welcome. The film won top honours at the International Oceania Documentary Film Festival in Tahiti.

Kea - Mountain Parrot

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

This documentary tells the story of the inimitable kea. The 'Clown of the Alps' is heralded as the world’s smartest bird (its intelligence rivals a monkey’s). Kea are famous on South Island tracks and ski fields for their insatiable (and destructive) inquisitiveness. Curiosity almost killed the kea when it was labelled a sheep killer, and tens of thousands were killed for a bounty. After shots of baby kea being fed, there is extraordinary night footage in clip four of the 'avian wolf' in action. The award-winning film makes a compelling case for the charismatic kea as a national icon.

Hair

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

Apemen, Barbie dolls, and hairy shoes ... as this documentary demonstrates, hair turns up everywhere — or not, as one man's poignant and matter-of-fact testimony to the horrors of losing it demonstrates. Hair's co-director, artist Judy Darragh, uses her fascination with all-things hirsute as a springboard for wit, thought-provoking theories, and some unusual artwork. She also phones Welsh author Elaine Morgan, who believes our ancestors lost much of their hair thanks to a semi-aquatic past. Producer Fiona Copland joins Darragh as co-director. 

Exhuming Adams

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

Exhuming Adams investigates the mysterious disappearance of a species of New Zealand mistletoe plant, 50 years ago. Set among dusty museum collections, high-tech labs, and remote bush, this documentary is a natural history CSI. A canny forensic investigation, taking in preserved bellbird skins, last witnesses and CGI modelling, reveals the chain of events leading to the unique plant's extinction, and a surprising culprit. Directors Brant Backlund and Thassilo Franke won the BBC Best Newcomer Award at the prestigious British film festival Wildscreen in 2006.

Allan Wilson: Evolutionary

Film, 2008 (Full Length)

Allan Wilson was the Pukekohe-raised scientist who revolutionised the study of evolutionary biology. Inspired by birds, he developed molecular approaches to 'clock' evolutionary change, and raised the hypothesis that humans evolved from one 'Eve' in Africa about 200,000 years ago. He is the only New Zealander to win a pretigious US MacArthur “genius” Award. The Listener called the film, a "shrewd insight into the man himself: the quintessential pioneering expat Kiwi individualist." It was made in partnership with UC Berkeley where Wilson was based for 35 years.

Masters of Inner Space

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

In this 1992 Wild South documentary, pioneering underwater photographers Wade and Jan Doak investigate how fish have evolved over 400 million years on the Northland coast. They explore ocean dwellers off the Poor Knights Islands, where myriad nimble life forms thrive — from radar-like sensory systems and kaleidoscopic colouring, to the intricacies of jaw and fin shape. The Doaks conduct novel experiments to showcase them on camera in this Natural History New Zealand production. This episode was narrated by nature documentary filmmaker Peter Hayden.

Radicals

Television, 1997 (Full Length)

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. 

Skin and Bone

Television, 2003 (Full Length)

Twenty three years after Foreskin's Lament became a Kiwi cause célèbre, writer Greg McGee brought his classic play to television. Skin and Bone "asset strips" and updates the story to reflect rugby (and society's) evolution. Here Seymour (Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr) — falteringly pursuing a professional career — returns home to play a last game for his rural club side. The brutality he witnesses leaves him questioning the morals of the code. The role of the old guard coach is reprised by Roy Billing, in McGee's opinion "the first and definitive Tupper".

50 Years of New Zealand Television: 7 - Taonga TV

Television, 2010 (Full Length Episode)

This edition in Prime’s television history series surveys Māori programming. Director Tainui Stephens pairs societal change (urbanisation, protest, cultural resurgence) with an increasing Māori presence in front of and behind the camera. Interviews with broadcasters are intercut with Māori screen content. The episode charts an evolution from Māori as exotic extras, via pioneering documentaries, drama and current affairs, to being an intrinsic part of Aotearoa’s screen landscape, with te reo used on national news, and Māori telling their own stories on Māori Television.

New Zild - The Story of New Zealand English

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

New Zealand's unique accent is often derided across the dutch for its vowel-mangling pronunciation ("sex fush'n'chups", anyone?) and being too fast-paced for tourists and Elton John to understand. In this documentary Jim Mora follows the evolution of New Zealand English, from the "colonial twang" to Billy T James. Linguist Elizabeth Gordon explains the infamous HRT (High Rising Terminal) at the end of sentences, and Mora interprets such phrases as "air gun" ("how are you going?"). Lynn of Tawa also features, in an accent face-off with Sam Neill and Judy Bailey.