After countless romances, breakups and revelations — plus the odd psycho and crashing helicopter — Shortland Street turned 25 in May 2017. Made on the run, sold round the globe, the Kiwi soap opera juggernaut has provided a launchpad for dozens of actors and behind the scenes talents. Alongside best of clips, the very first episode, musical moments and favourite memories from the cast, Shortland star turned director Angela Bloomfield writes about how the show has changed here, while Mihi Murray backgrounds how it began — and how it reflects New Zealand.
Set in gritty backstreets somewhere in downtown Auckland, this short film follows the vicissitudes of Evan, a teenager whose life changes when he skips school and meets a beautiful and troubled stranger. Directed by Michael Duignan (A New Way Home) and produced by Rachel Gardner (Apron Strings, A Show of Hands), Truant is a convincing portrayal of that potent mixture of curiosity and desperation peculiar to adolescence. Truant screened at a number of festivals including the prestigious short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and the London Film Festival.
This documentary confronts attitudes to alcohol consumption in NZ. Interviews with those who see major problems (including police, ambulance, youth workers, Family Planning and Women's Refuge) and those who don't (brewers, advertising agencies, sports groups and publicans) are interspersed with often-graphic footage of excessive alcohol use. The challenging depiction of the culture piqued Lion Breweries, who complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. The BSA rejected their assertion that the programme was salacious, but did agree it "lacked balance".
In this short film, 14-year-old Jimmy (Waka Rowlands) faces a tough decision: stay in his abusive home to protect his younger siblings, or escape to start a new life of his own. Written and directed by Sam Kelly, Lambs was inspired by true stories. It competed at the 2012 Clermont-Ferrand and Berlin Film Festivals, and won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2012 NZ Film Festival; judge Roger Donaldson raved: “It reminded me of Once Were Warriors in the best possible way.” Lambs was one of the first products of the NZ Film Commission’s ‘Fresh Shorts’ funding scheme.
In this feature film, Tama, a distressed young man, becomes entwined with five families coping with suicide on a journey from Parihaka to Te Rerenga Wairua. A mysterious woman, Hine-nui-te-pō, prompts Tama to confront the finality of death. Director Paora Joseph (Children of Parihaka) mixes drama and documentary, in the hope his film will provoke kōrero around mental health, and offer a pathway through darkness. Niwa Whatuira (The Dark Horse) and newcomer Hera Foley play the lead roles. Māui’s Hook was set to debut at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
Gladiator: the Norm Hewitt story is the story of former All Black hooker Norm Hewitt's battle with alcoholism and his journey to redemption. After disgracing himself, a tearful public apology became a personal "defining moment" for Hewitt: he reinvented himself as a youth worker and ambassador for Outward Bound. Directed by Michael Bennet, shot by Rewa Harre and based on the best-selling biography by Michael Laws the doco takes him to meet legendary youth worker Mama Teri on the streets of South Auckland, and chronicles Hewitt's life change.
Almost two decades before Once Were Warriors, another drama about urban Māori under pressure stirred controversy. Hema (Dale Williams) and Janey (Julie Wehipeihana) are two kids adrift in the city, trying to escape a broken home. Screen historian Trisha Dunleavy found this "the most powerful and controversial" edition of the Winners & Losers series; it was TV's first drama about "the alienation of Māori in a contemporary urban setting". Based on a Witi Ihimaera story, it also marked the first solo directing credit for Ian Mune. He later directed the sequel to Once Were Warriors.
Producer/Director Paula Jones spent intensive time on the streets of Auckland, getting to know the ‘street kids' that are the subjects of this documentary before she started shooting. With minimal posturing for the camera, the result is a close portrait of young homeless people with names like Tapu, Baby Girl and Boom Boom. In a non-judgemental way Jones shows viewers the glue sniffing, alcohol abuse and unplanned pregnancy that is an everyday way of life for many of these kids. The Hidden was an Inside New Zealand documentary for TV3.
Famous as New Zealand television's first ever sitcom, Buck House was a rollicking and relatively risqué series that centred on the comings and goings of university students in a dilapidated Wellington flat — the eponymous 'Buck House'. Stars of the show included John Clarke, Paul Holmes, and Tony Barry (Goodbye Pork Pie). Despite (or more likely because of) its bawdy humour, occasional coarse language and alcohol abuse, the pioneering comedy sated the needs of many Kiwi viewers desperate for TV with identifiable local content and flavour.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.