Whanganui-born chef Peter Gordon helmed the Sugar Club in Wellington in the 80s, before moving to the UK and started up a series of acclaimed restaurants, including Providores and Tapa Room (opened shortly after this doco was made). Plaudits as a pioneer of ‘fusion’ cooking followed. Here the ‘kai magpie’, takes in everything from paw paw to paua on a homecoming taste trip: raw fish in Rarotonga, Waikato River 'tuna', deer at Wairarapa’s Te Parae, Seresin organic olive oil, Marlborough koura, Stewart Island oysters, and more. The one-off special screened on TV One and on BBC2.
This 2016 Loading Doc introduces a heavily-tattoed Englishman living in Rarotonga. Croc Coulter is an unlikely master of the traditional art of tātatau (tattoo); the documentary follows Coulter as he teaches the art form to an apprentice, Moko Smith. Coulter also lives with cystic fibrosis. It was directed by Robert George, who has Cook Islands Māori and Māori heritage, and a background as both a painter and in post-production work for the screen. The mini documentary was shared internationally; it also featured on National Geographic's Short Film Showcase.
According to Māori legend Aotearoa was found by the explorer Kupe, chasing a wheke (octopus) from Ra'iatea, Tahiti. This documentary follows Northland building contractor Hekenukumai 'Hector' Busby, as he leads the construction of a waka hourua (a double-hulled canoe), then retraces Kupe's course across the Pacific, back to Rarotonga. Before 'Te Aurere' and her crew depart, Busby heads to Taihiti to learn navigation methods used by the great Polynesian ocean voyagers, then returns home to fell a kauri and begin his contribution to his ancestors' legacy.
The Silent One is a mythological children's drama about the friendship between a deaf mute boy, Jonasi, and a rare white turtle. The boy's differences lead to suspicion from his Rarotongan village. When the village suffers drought and a devastating storm, the boy and turtle (also considered an ill omen) are blamed and ostracised. Adapted by Ian Mune from a Joy Cowley story, the beloved film was the first New Zealand dramatic feature to be directed by a woman (Yvonne Mackay). In the excerpt here, Jonasi is excluded from a boar hunt and first meets the turtle.
In the first feature film from high-flying creative collective thedownlowconcept (7 Days, Hounds), the company's longtime 'muse' Joss Thomson plays a struggling real estate agent who becomes the chief of his family's sinking Pacific Island — while simultaneously striving to offer his girlfriend Chloe (American actor Megan Stevenson) her dream wedding. Shot largely in Raratonga, the film also features Dave Fane and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). The trailer promises male corsets and fat jokes, plus plenty of deadpan downlowconcept mayhem.
Mercury Lane was a story-driven arts show that generally included a cluster of short documentaries, poetry and musical performances in each hour-long episode. This episode of the Greenstone-produced arts series features Sam Hunt interviewing acclaimed New Zealand poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell. Campbell discusses his early childhood in the Cook Islands as the child of a Pākehā father and Polynesian mother, and reads a selection of poems. The programme ends with Auckland pianist Tamas Vesmas playing a Debussy prelude at the Auckland Art Gallery.
This 1951 National Film Unit production looks at the Cook Islands, and marks the 50th anniversary of the islands’ annexation in 1901. Unusually long (half an hour) for an NFU film, it shows history ("Vikings of the Pacific" through Captain Cook to New Zealand administration) and island life: spear-fishing, catamaran sailing, breadfruit gathering, weaving, dancing and singing. The islands are depicted as paradise guided by NZ paternalism, with the Islanders grateful recipients of modern communication, technology, health services, education, and... tinned meat.
Real Pasifik is a roving celebration of Pacific food and culture. Inspired by chef Robert Oliver’s acclaimed cookbook Me’a Kai, the show follows Oliver as he travels across the Pacific, aiming to inspire resort chefs to showcase indigenous cuisine. In this opening episode of the first series, Oliver heads to the Cook Islands where he visits a marae for a kai blessing, before tasting goat and taro from an an umu (earth oven). He goes lagoon spear fishing, samples pink potato salad (aka ‘mayonnaise’) and serves up a banquet of locally-cooked food to assembled VIPs.
This 1960 National Film Unit documentary visits the Cook Islands, a group of volcanic isles and coral atolls administered by New Zealand. Ron Bowie's film surveys the challenges of island life (sourcing fresh water, lack of timber for housing) as well as agriculture (coconuts), recreation and schooling. Though patronising — describing Rarotongan people as “the cheerful islander” — the narration confronts some impacts of modernity (eg the shift to European diet for dental health), and anticipates young people will be the islands' biggest export.
This documentary unearths the story of the soldiers in the New Zealand Tunneling Company, whose daring World War I raids involved digging tunnels through chalk rock, laying explosives underneath enemy lines, and countermining German tunneling efforts. The story is told through the eyes of a New Zealand woman who retraces her grandfather’s war story to Arras, France, and sees the Kiwi-tagged cavern 'city' nearly 80 years later. The company played a key role on the Western Front, and was especially recruited in NZ, made up of miners, bushmen and labourers.