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.
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).
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".
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.
This 1988 film details a mission by 100 men to paddle a huge waka taua (war canoe) from Waitangi to Whangaroa, chronicling their spiritual and physical journey en route. The camera takes in training, the gruelling 10 hour, 70 kilometre passage, and the vessel's arrival in Whangaroa Harbour to mark Whangaroa County’s centennial. The waka, Ngātokimatawhaorua, was named after Kupe’s original ocean-voyaging canoe. Beached at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, it is the largest waka in existence. This was veteran filmmaker Tainui Stephens' first documentary as a director.
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.
Icon in B Minor: a musical odyssey is the tale of two creative souls from different centuries with the same belief in spiritual transformation through their art. World-renowned New Zealand concert pianist Michael Houstoun is filmed on his pilgrimage to Germany, where composer Franz Liszt spent his last years. Houstoun is preparing for his performance of Liszt's monumental work, Sonata in B Minor. Produced and directed by Tainui Stephens, Icon in B Minor screened as part of the Work of Art series.
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.