Founded in 1977 by ex-vacuum salesman Bert Potter, Centrepoint was an alternative lifestyle settlement that promoted intimate communal living, along with personal and sexual freedom. This documentary observes members' struggles to reconcile the values of their new home with the outside world. Director Geoff Steven threatened to take his name off the credits, in a successful bid to avoid the cutting of emotional scenes of 'encounter group' style psychotherapy. Potter and others were later convicted for a spate of child sex abuse and drugs charges.
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell, she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his earlier work, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; although critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film that offered "style and brains".
Carl (Australian actor David Wenham) and Julie (Sia Trokenheim, from TV series Step Dave) are an estranged couple whose teen daughter Eve has gone missing in India. Their search takes them from Auckland to New Delhi and the Himalayas, where culture clashes and old wounds frustrate their efforts. The film was directed by Indian Pan Nalin (the acclaimed Samsara) and written by Kiwi Dianne Taylor. Known World was the first product of a New Zealand-India co-production treaty. The team of producers includes Kiwis Kristian Eek and Matthew Horrocks.
Richard Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro — traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. This 2007 episode of the Māori Television arts show sits down with him as he narrates his collaboration with Brian Flintoff and the late Hirini Melbourne — “a magic coalition of separate skills” — and the journey they’ve undertaken to resurrect lost sounds. Inspired by museum objects, literature and song, the trio led the revival of the form in contemporary Aotearoa. Nunns says the pūoro would’ve functioned as “a cellphone to the divine” for tohunga (experts).
Perfect Creature is set in an immaculately realised alternative colonial New Zealand where steam powers cobble-stoned cities, and zeppelins cruise the skies. A race of benevolent vampires preside over the spiritual life of humanity. When one of them turns rogue, a manhunt begins. Starring international actors (Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows) Perfect Creature was the second feature for director Glenn Standring. It was the first Kiwi film picked up for distribution by a major Hollywood studio (Twentieth Century Fox), who ultimately dithered with its release.
For the 2009 final of this iconic Kiwi game show, Taupō — "the spiritual home of trout", according to host Mikey Havoc — takes on Whakatāne. Civic pride is, as always, on the line. The crowd at Christchurch's Jellie Park are amped as two fit and motivated teams fling their bodies against a giant, inflatable obstacle course and compete in rounds with names like Rolling Road and Roller Derby. Hosts Mikey Havoc, Marc Ellis ( whose voice is taking a beating) and Hayley Holt quiz the teams poolside, while commentator Nathan Rarere enjoys skewering a long list of sporting cliches.
This 76-minute documentary looks at efforts to restore the mauri (life spirit) of Northland's Lake Omapere, a large fresh water lake — and taonga to the Ngāpuhi people — made toxic by pollution. Simon Marler's film offers a timely challenge to New Zealand's 100% Pure branding, and an argument for kaitiakitanga (guardianship) that respects ecological and spiritual well-being. There is spectacular footage of the lake's endangered long-finned eel. Barry Barclay in Onfilm called the film "powerful, sobering". It screened at the 2008 National Geographic All Roads Film Festival.
In this series celebrating New Zealand's national parks, Peter Hayden travels through some of Aotearoa's most awe-inspiring environments. This episode — looking at the unique spiritual relationship between the Tūhoe people, and the birds and bush of Te Urewera National Park — was directed by Barry Barclay (Ngati). Barclay used his fourth cinema philosophy of indigenous filmmaking, "to tell the contemporary story of the park through their [Tūhoe] eyes". The film attracted controversy for its then exceptional use of te reo. Catherine Bisley writes about the Journeys series here.
This short documentary series looked at New Zealand's landscape art from the arrival of Pākehā up until the 1980s. The four episodes moved from the development of a local version of the European tradition (through artists such as John Gully and Petrus van der Velden) through to the homegrown modernism emerging in the 20th Century: the distinct hard-edged styles of Binney, White and Smither, the spiritual abstracts of McCahon and Woollaston, to the later impact of Māori artists like Hotere, Whiting and Kahukiwa.
In this full-length episode of Intrepid Journeys, Dave Dobbyn arrives in the Kingdom of Morocco, and finds himself bowled over by the sites, sounds, the sense of living history, the friendly people — and the sugar-heavy local tea. Uplifted to heights both spiritual and comedic, he wanders the world's largest medieval city, in Fez; visits Hassan ll Mosque in Casablanca, one of the world's largest, and finds himself donning a British accent as he starts a camel trek in the Sahara. From Casablanca to Marrakesh, the journey offers Dobbyn a sense of delight and creative renewal.