Month by month, this collection offers up NZ On Screen's most viewed clips for 2016. Alongside legendary adverts, the clips collection features talents lost to us over the year, from Ray Columbus to Martin Crowe and Bowie (via Flight of the Conchords). In this backgrounder, NZ On Screen Content Director Kathryn Quirk guides us through the list.
In September 1893 New Zealand became the first country to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This fly on the wall docudrama reimagines this major achievement, following Kate Sheppard (played by Sara Wiseman) throughout the final push of her campaign. The 70-minute TV movie follows the template set by director Peter Burger and writer Gavin Strawhan in their 2011 docudrama on the Treaty of Waitangi, with key characters directly addressing their 21st century audience. At the 2012 NZ TV awards, Wiseman won for Best Performance by an Actress.
Vincent Ward has won an international reputation as one of New Zealand's most original and visionary filmmakers. Vigil and The Navigator played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival (the first Kiwi films to do so). In Hollywood, Ward made Robin Williams afterlife drama What Dreams May Come. Urewera-set docu-drama Rain of the Children in 2008 revisited characters from Ward's 1980 documentary In Spring One Plants Alone.
Versatile director Mike Smith has made an enormous amount of New Zealand drama. Highlights of his lengthy television CV include Radio Waves, Duggan, Serial Killers, The Almighty Johnsons, Nothing Trivial, tele-movie Siege and docu-drama Nancy Wake: The White Mouse. Smith also had a big hand in creating Heroes (80s pop band on-the-make show), yokels comedy Willy Nilly, children’s drama The Lost Children and 2013 comedy Sunny Skies. He was also one of the key players in the launch of Outrageous Fortune.
Home by Christmas sees Gaylene Preston returning to the hidden stories of ordinary New Zealanders. Inspired by attempts to get her father Ed to reveal his WWII experiences, this finely-balanced docu-drama moves between three strands: Preston’s father (Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry, in a Qantas award-winning performance) retelling his story; recreations of Ed’s wartime OE; and life for the woman he left behind in Greymouth. The dream cast sees Preston’s own daughter Chelsie Preston Crayford playing Preston's mother Tui, alongside Martin Henderson.
Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe was the first Māori pilot in the RNZAF. Nicknamed 'Lucky Johnny', he was a WWII hero who flew an amazing 22 missions, was involved in the legendary 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III, and insisted on removing his blindfold when he faced a German firing squad. This award-winning docu-drama tells Pohe's extraordinary life story. When it screened on Māori Television, Listener reviewer Diana Wichtel called it "a terrific yarn", and it won Best Documentary Aotearoa at the 2008 Wairoa Māori Film Festival Awards. Actor/singer Francis Kora plays Pohe.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
As Close to Home’s stern Don Hearte, Tony Currie became one of local television’s best known faces in the mid-1970s. The Scottish-born ex policeman got his start in historical dramas, including an award-winning portrayal of prime minister Richard Seddon. After signing on for Close to Home, Currie stayed with the soap for all of its eight years and 818 episodes, turning his hand to writing scripts along the way.
On stage, actor George Henare has played everyone from Lenin and King Lear, to Snoopy and Dracula. On screen, his extensive resume spans 70s TV landmark The Governor, 90s classic Once Were Warriors, and an award-winning role on 2010's Kaitangata Twitch.
With the movie Savage Honeymoon and classic TV show Outrageous Fortune, Mark Beesley established himself as the man to call when dealing with rough and tumble families from West Auckland. Elsewhere the talented director and sometime producer has shown his gift for melding comedy and drama on The Almighty Johnsons, Insiders Guide to Happiness, and Xena: Warrior Princess.