Waka Warriors - First Episode

Television, 2015 (Full Length Episode)

In this first episode of the 2015 Māori Television series, three rangitahi answer a Facebook call for sailors who are up for reconnecting with nature and their culture, on a six week waka journey circumnavigating the North Island. The te ao Māori twist on the fish out of water reality show sees a trio of young Māori (including Boy discovery Rickylee Russell-Waipuka) set sail on Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr’s waka Haunui, where they’re separated from social media, face seasickness and rough seas, and learn the "ancient laws of voyaging". The winner gets the chance to join a voyage to Rarotonga.

Waka Huia - Meng Foon

Television, 2008 (Full Length)

When Meng Foon stood down as mayor of Gisborne after 18 years in 2019, he was Aotearoa's only mayor to be fluent in te reo Māori. In this subtitled te reo documentary, Gisborne locals praise Foon's ability to walk in both the Māori and Pākehā world. Kaumatua Charlie Pera admits some Māori were initially hesitant about a Chinese person speaking te reo, but they were soon won over by Foon's passion for their language and tikanga, and his advocacy of their issues. Foon, who was raised in Gisborne to market gardener parents, became Race Relations Commissioner in late 2019. 

Waka Huia - First Episode

Television, 1988 (Full Length Episode)

A 'waka huia' is traditionally a treasure box to hold the revered huia feather. Waka Huia the TV series records and preserves Māori culture and customs. The long-running series also covers social and political concerns of the day, taking a snapshot of Māori history. Waka Huia is seen as a taonga for future generations and is presented completely in te reo Māori. This first episode is about the language and its survival, and features groundbreaking TV interviews with Sir James Henare and Dame Mira Szaszy.

Waka - The Awakening Dream

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

The largest gathering ever seen of Māori tribal war canoes (waka taua) was one of the centrepieces of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1990. This documentary, narrated by Tukuroirangi Morgan, followed the ambitious countrywide programme to build the ornately carved waka, and assemble them at Waitangi as a demonstration of Māori pride and unity. The 22 strong fleet, powered by 1000 paddlers, also fulfilled a dream of Tainui leader Princess Te Puea Herangi that had been curtailed 50 years earlier by World War II.

Te Marae - A Journey of Discovery

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

The enormous significance to Māori of marae, as places of belonging where ritual and culture can be preserved, is explored in this Pita Turei-directed documentary. Made in conjunction with the NZ Historic Places Trust, it chronicles the programme to restore marae buildings and taonga around the country — and the challenge of maintaining the tribal heritages expressed in them. As well as visiting some of NZ's oldest marae, one of the newest also features — Tapu Te Ranga, in Wellington’s Island Bay, which is being built from recycled demolition wood.  

Come on to New Zealand

Short Film, 1980 (Full Length)

The line “where the bloody hell are you?” generated controversy when used in a 2006 Aussie tourism campaign; so who knows what 1980 audiences made of this promo’s exhortation to “Come on to New Zealand.” But as the narration assures: “It’s a safe country. You can walk without being molested.” Aimed at the US market, the film was made as long haul air travel was opening up NZ as a destination. Māori culture, sheep and pretty scenery are highlighted, alongside skinny dipping and weaving (!). Narrated by Bob Parker, the NFU promo marked an early gig for editor Annie Collins.

Te Hono Ki Aotearoa

Film, 2012 (Full Length)

A request from Holland's National Museum of Ethnology to acquire a Māori war canoe (waka taua) as a permanent exhibit resulted in master builder Hector Busby being commissioned to craft one. Jan Bieringa’s film looks at the history of waka, and follows the project from construction and launch, to the training of a Dutch crew and arrival in Holland. The first waka to permanently leave New Zealand shores makes a surreal sight on the canals of Abel Tasman’s birthplace. Onfilm reviewer Helen Martin praised it as "a spe­cial film about a very spe­cial project."

Rere Ki Uta, Rere Ki Tai (The Journey)

Short Film, 1988 (Full Length)

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. 

Tāhere Tikitiki - The Making of a Māori Canoe

Television, 1974 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit documentary records the 18-month-long building process of a waka taua (war canoe): from the felling of the trees — opening with an awe-inspiring shot of the giant totara selected by master carver Piri Poutapu — to the ceremonial launch. The waka was commissioned by Māori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and built at Tūrangawaewae Marae. The Harry Dansey-narrated film was significant in showing the importance of the canoe-building kaupapa alongside the everyday lives of the workers (at the freezing works, the pub).

Kupe - Voyaging by the Stars

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

According to Māori legend Aotearoa was found by the explorer Kupe, chasing an octopus from Ra'iatea, Tahiti. This documentary follows Northland building contractor Hekenukumai 'Hector' Busby, as he leads the construction of a waka hourua (double-hulled canoe), then retraces Kupe's course across the Pacific, back to Rarotonga. Busby first heads to Tahiti to learn navigation methods used by Polynesia's great ocean voyagers, then returns home to fell a kauri and begin building Te Aurere. Busby would go on to build at least another 20 waka; he passed away in May 2019.