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McPhail and Gadsby - First Episode

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire. 

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The Life and Times of Te Tutu - 4 (Series One, Episode Four)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

Religion is the subject of this fourth episode of the series satirising colonial relations between Māori and Pākehā. Chief Te Tutu (Pio Terei) is disturbed by the bells ringing from the new church being built by settler Henry Vole, and goes to investigate. He finds a tohunga dressed like a tui. Te Tutu’s interpretation of the scripture leads to complications. Meanwhile Mrs Vole (Emma Lange) continues to do all the work while the Pākehā blokes chinwag. John Leigh (Sparky in Outrageous Fortune) guest stars as an Anglican minister under pressure from Vole to spice up his sermons. 

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Asia Downunder - Series 13, Episode 13

Television, 2006 (Full Length)

This Asia Downunder episode is a half-hour special on Asian religions. Two Muslim brothers are interviewed about their faith, followed by a comparison of the Islamic faith with Christianity. The revival of interest in the Catholic church is explored, then the show visits the sikh temple in Manurewa Sikh. Hinduism and Buddhism also feature, while in the kitchen Geeling Ng (Gloss) rustles up some Chicken in Adobo Sauce.

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Real Lives - Ponsonby Road

Television, 1988 (Full Length Episode)

This 1988 TVNZ documentary looks at Ponsonby through the eyes of some of its oldest identities. It's a pivotal time in the Auckland suburb's evolution from working class preserve to upmarket retail destination and residential area. Gentrification is taking hold, as older residents move on or are forced out by rising property prices. But there are still traces of the old Ponsonby to be seen in the fabled Gluepot tavern, op shops, drop-in centres and a dizzying array of eateries — and there are memories of when Michael Joseph Savage was the local MP.

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The Last Western Heretic

Television, 2007 (Excerpts)

The often controversial beliefs of Sir Lloyd Geering, New Zealand’s best known theologian, are examined in this Top Shelf doco. In this excerpt, he visits Jerusalem to advance his view that the resurrection of Jesus should not be interpreted literally. Forty years earlier, this assertion divided the Presbyterian Church (where he was Principal of Knox College) and led to his heresy trial on charges of “doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the church”. There is archive footage of an unrepentant Geering from the two-day trial which the NZBC televised live.  

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Rud's Wife

Short Film, 1986 (Full Length)

“An ironic comedy about a disconnected New Zealand family” is the tagline to this early Alison Maclean short. Recently widowed Nan (Yvonne Lawley) assesses her life and the roles prescribed by her family as she readies a Sunday roast. Her new plans — “I won’t be able to make the Christmas Cake this year” — rattle the shackles of her Old Testament-bashing husband and her ex-All Black son. Nan was a comeback leading role for Lawley after time away raising a family. Written with playwright Norelle Scott, Maclean’s short screened with the About Face TV series.

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Praise Be - Series 11, Episode 13

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the long-running religious programme focuses on Auckland's Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It features hymns from the Holy Trinity Choir and Auckland Choral Federation. The Graeme Thomson-hosted show also discusses the history and architecture of the cathedral following the completion of its nave in 1995. Built on land bought by Bishop Selwyn in 1859, the completed cathedral reflects the undulating landscape of Auckland, combining Gothic and Polynesian elements.

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Kiwi Buddha

Television, 2000 (Excerpts)

Kiwi Buddha follows the journey of seven-year-old Rinpoche as he becomes the first Buddhist High Lama incarnated in the Southern Hemisphere. ‘Venerable Pong Re Sung Rap Tulku Rinpoche', is a schoolboy from Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland. The film documents Rinpoche's journey as he leaves small town New Zealand behind (along with McDonalds and Pokemon) to travel to a monastery in the Himalayas where he will spend his next 20 years studying Buddhism. Kiwi Buddha sold to the National Geographic channel and to 60 territories.

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The Insatiable Moon

Film, 2010 (Trailer, Excerpts, and Extras)

The Insatiable Moon is the tale of a man with nothing but wisdom, joy and possibly a direct line to God. Arthur (Rawiri Paratene) wanders the streets of Ponsonby, where he finds perfection (Sara Wiseman) just as his community of boarding house friends faces threat. Producer Mike Riddell first wrote The Insatiable Moon as a 1997 novel, inspired by people he met while he was a clergyman in Ponsonby. The film’s extended development almost saw it made in England with Timothy Spall - before finally coming home, “on half a shoestring and a heap of passion”.

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American Pie - 3, Episode Three

Television, 1988 (Full Length Episode)

In this episode of his US TV odyssey director Geoff Steven reaches the Deep South. In Memphis, jailer WC Watson introduces his gospel singing family and there are rapturous scenes as they perform at their Beale Street church. In New Orleans, a youth court judge and her lawyer husband attempt to balance jobs and social work with raising their own children. The flipside is provided by descendants of slave owners looking for ways to hold on to their mansions now that the plantations that once supported them have gone.