New Zealand's much-loved comedian and entertainer Billy T James tells the story of his heart transplant operation at Greenlane Hospital, in 1989, and his subsequent recovery. The documentary, much of which is filmed at the hospital (sometimes even from bed, as Billy re-enacts his operation) also features five other patients who he became close to over the months while they waited for their hearts. Entertaining as well as educational, the film includes a musical number with Max Cryer, dressed as a surgeon, joined in song by Billy and Don Selwyn.
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).
Gang Girls tells the story of seven women who have spent time in New Zealand’s most notorious gangs. The expose of gang women in Aotearoa features hard-hitting and emotional interviews. Winner of a Qantas Media Award for Best Documentary and nominated for three NZ Television Awards, it was produced by Claudette Hauiti's Front of the Box Productions. The company went on to to make two half-hour documentaries on teenage girl gangs: Gang Girl – Tarnz Story and Mob Daughters.
Teenage gang girl Tarnz speaks with brutal honesty about her extraordinary life in this documentary. From Maraenui, Napier, Tarnz formed her own girl gang in her teens, amassed 13 convictions and was imprisoned three times. Gang Girl - Tarnz Story was a finalist at the 2007 Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival in Canada. It was made alongside another girl gang documentary, Mob Daughters; both documentaries were produced by Front of the Box Productions and screened on TV2.
This 2018 feature follows ex gang leader Logan (Josh Calles), who has ditched gang life to raise his daughter. When she is murdered by a rival gang, Logan is forced to choose between vengeance – and all-out gang warfare – or forgiveness. Also starring Dark Horse discovery Wayne Hapi, the Gisborne-shot drama marks the first feature directed by pastor Tarry Mortlock. It is a modern interpretation of a true story about a girl killed by a raiding party in the 1800s. Broken is presented by City Impact Church, although Mortlock says he "never set out to make a Christian movie for Christians".
Tom Gould’s short film documents the life of Martyka ‘Skin’ Brandt — Mongrel Mob gangster, speedway driver and devoted solo father to 10 children (four of his own, six fostered). Brandt was a rare Pākehā who joined the Mob in the 70s. His stereotype-defying life spans escaping from Sunnyside mental institution as a teen, violence and ‘Mongrelism’, then transformation via parenthood. NYC-based Kiwi Gould filmed Skin in Brandt’s Napier home. Skin won international attention as a Vimeo Staff Pick, Short of the Week, and selection in Dazed magazine’s ‘Doc X’ strand.
A gang member wakes up one morning and decides he needs a day off. Willy (ex-Mongrel Mob boss Tuhoe Isaac) checks out of the gang pad and, on a whim goes for a cruise on the Interislander. At a Picton Pub he makes an unlikely connection with brothers of a different clan. The near-wordless exploration of culture clashes and a man’s journey outside of his comfort zone, was the debut dramatic short from director Zoe McIntosh. It was selected for New York and Tribeca film fests, and Isaac won best performance in a short film at the 2010 Qantas Film and TV Awards.
This film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
This People Like Us episode profiles Apirana Mahuika, before he became leader of Ngāti Porou. Having left lecturing at Massey University to return to his East Coast hometown of Tikitiki, Mahuika talks at his farm 'laboratory' about tamarillos, gangs, and coming home. He hopes his progressive farming (trialling kiwifruit and wine) will encourage young Ngāti Porou to remain and find jobs. A key figure in many Treaty of Waitangi claims and lead negotiator of Ngāti Porou's claim, Mahuika died in February 2015; Tau Henare said "his passing will cut a swathe through the forest".