Te Rerenga Wairua

Short Film, 1984 (Full Length)

This trippy animation follows the spirit of a person killed in a motorway car accident. The life force (wairua) runs through forest and beaches on its journey to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga). En route it meets tourist buses and other spirits, before reaching the gnarly pohutukawa and making the leap towards Hawaiki-Nui. There's a real native joy in seeing contemporary 80s animation enliven ancient Māori spiritual concepts. Joe Wylie (Toy Love's Bride of Frankenstein) was in charge of the animation team; The Clean provide the soundtrack to the all-stops-out finale.

The Legend of the Whanganui River

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

This documentary film tells the story of the Whanganui River. It recounts a Māori myth believing the river is the path carved by a god (Pukeonaki aka Mt Taranaki) in its journey from the volcanic plateau to the west coast. There is beautifully shot footage of Māori paddling a waka under tui-laden matai, and tourists cruising on steamers. In 1950 the NFU had become part of the Department of Tourism and Publicity (after accusations of political bias); and this film reflects the change, with a triumphant narrative of progress underpinning an often-bloody river history.

Space Knights - The Golden Knight (First Episode)

Television, 1989 (Excerpts)

Ambitious kids' sci fi series Space Knights pitched the King Arthur myth into a zany universe of Knights of the Round Space Station, Vader-esque villains, rainbow rocket exhaust, and laser lance jousting. The distinctive look of this early South Pacific Pictures series — like a picture book come to life — was led by cartoonist Chris Slane who achieved it by using actors in life-size puppet suits and blue screen effects. In this excerpt, the evil Mordread creates an android Trojan horse to infiltrate Castle Spacelot. The 'Space Junk' theme song is by Dave Dobbyn.

Anzac: Tides of Blood

Television, 2015 (Trailer)

In this acclaimed Kiwi-Aussie co-production Sam Neill confronted what ‘Anzac’ means, a century after NZ and Australian troops landed at Gallipoli as part of an invasion by British-led forces to capture the Turkish territory. Through the lens of his whānau’s war stories (including a visit to his grandfather's grave) Neill uncovered forgotten truths about the catastrophic campaign, and examined ways the Anzac myth has been manipulated. "I hate militarism, loathe nationalism but honour those who served.” The full documentary screened on Māori Television on Anzac Day 2015.

Legend of Birds

Short Film, 1962 (Full Length)

This 1962 National Film Unit short uses the relationship between Māori and manu (birds) as a platform to celebrate New Zealand bush birds — from food source and key roles in myth, to their general character. Legend of Birds was filmed on Kāpiti and Little Barrier Islands. Many of the images were captured by noted nature photographers Kenneth and Jean Bigwood, and the score is by composer Larry Pruden. The narration includes a rap-style tribute to the  kākā parrot: “squarks about his indigestion, population and congestion … politics the current question”.

Ghosts of Gondwana

Television, 2001 (Full Length)

Long isolated, New Zealand contains a world of Alice Through the Looking Glass natural oddities: birds, insects and plants like nowhere else. Scientist Jared Diamond remarked "it is the nearest approach to life on another planet". Palaeontology (from Professor Michael Archer) and Māori myth (told by Hirini Melbourne) reveal these 'Ghosts of Gondwana'. Then cutting edge camera techniques (earning a Merit Award at 2002 International Wildlife Film Festival) delve into a night world of bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” wētā, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills.

Fantail

Film, 2013 (Trailer)

Service station worker Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Māori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. Directed by Curtis Vowell (his debut) the script was adapted by Henderson from her theatre monologue, and shot in 20 days via the NZFC’s low budget Escalator scheme. The twist on the Hine-nui-te-po myth was a breakout hit of the 2013 NZ Film Festival. NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry raved: “one of the freshest New Zealand films to come along in years”.

Haka - A Musical and a History

Short Film, 1988 (Full Length)

In Haka Māori myth is re-told through a series of stirring haka performances. Men stomp, invoke, and do pūkana (tongue out, eyes wide) amidst spitting mud and fire and ... in Paremoremo Prison and under a motorway. These scenes are intercut with archive imagery of post-pākehā Māori life, from first contact to Maori Battalion, urban drift and protest. The film is a tribute to the raw power, and art, of haka. Ultimately the Once Were Warriors-like message "is positive because of the fierce, irresistible pride of the performances." Peter Calder, (NZ Herald, 1989)

Uenuku

Television, 1974 (Full Length)

Geoff Murphy (Utu) directed this freewheeling adaptation of the Māori legend of Uenuku and his affair with mist maiden Hinepūkohurangi. The story of love, betrayal, and redemption was the first Māori myth adapted for TV — and the first TV drama performed entirely in te reo. The Listener softened viewers by printing a translation before it aired. Filmed at the Waimarama base of Murphy and cinematographer Alun Bollinger, Uenuku was produced by company Peach Wemyss Astor for the NZ Broadcasting Corporation — a rare independently produced TV drama in the 1970s. 

Aroha - Irikura

Television, 2002 (Full Length Episode)

Lovers move towards each other through space and time in this episode of te reo series Aroha. Tapu (Cliff Curtis) plays a doctor who is unnerved by the strange behaviour of elderly patient Kahu. Kahu's death affects his niece Irikura (Ngarimu Daniels) deeply, and at the tangi secrets are revealed. Tapu and Irikura are haunted by visions of a shared past; Kahu's ghost has plans for them. This episode played in black and white. Celebrated Māori actor and mentor Don Selwyn plays Kahu. Director Guy Moana created tā moko and carvings for classic 1994 film Once Were Warriors.