With The Free Man, genre-hopping director Toa Fraser (The Dead Lands) takes on the world of extreme sport. The globetrotting documentary is built around encounters between Kiwi freestyle skier Jossi Wells and The Flying Frenchies, known for their base jumps, wingsuit flying and tightrope walks at terrifying heights. As Wells gets direct experience in the art of walking a highline, director Fraser investigates what adrenaline junkies gain — and lose — when putting their lives on the line. The Free Man gets its Kiwi premiere during the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
This short documentary about freestyle skiing was directed for the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department by Sam Neill (who would shortly achieve fame as an actor). This was one of several docos directed by Neill while at the National Film Unit; other subjects included the Red Mole theatre troupe and architect Ian Athfield. The skiers put on daring displays of their 'art' in locations including Mount Hutt, Queenstown and Tongariro National Park. 70s snow-styles (and beards) abound. The film was translated into French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish.
This 2015 Loading Docs short follows Tihei Harawira as he freestyle raps at Otara Markets. Diagnosed with autism and dyslexia as a child, Harawira didn’t ‘fit’ and was the victim of bullying. But an appreciative audience at the flea markets — where he busks ad hoc rhymes set to a beat box — have enabled Tihei to find his voice. ‘Tihei’ means “the breath of life”, a name he was given by an aunty after being resuscitated at birth. Tihei was directed by Hamish Bennett and produced by Orlando Stewart, the team behind 2014 NZ Film Festival award-winner Ross & Beth.
This documentary comprehensively traces the history of skiing and winter sports in New Zealand. From Mannering and Dixon, who used homemade skis in an almost-successful ascent of Mt Cook and the hut-building pioneers of recreational ski clubs in their pre-Gore-tex garb, to commercial ski fields and lifts, superb archive footage shows the advances. New Zealand teams at the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952 and Sarajevo 32 years later had come some way from the days when carrier pigeons were used to report snow conditions from Canterbury's ski fields to Christchurch.
Alex is a champion teenage swimmer determined to win selection to the 1960 Rome Olympics, in this adaptation of the award-winning young adults novel. Written by ex Empire Games swimming medallist Tessa Duder, Alex was the first in a quartet of books exploring the vicissitudes of the high achiever freestyler as she deals with rivalry, ambition, first love and the pressures of growing up. Lauren Jackson, who played the title role, later appeared in vampire movie Perfect Creature. The film was a co-production between New Zealand and Australia.
Fronted by Paul Holmes, this doco looks at the New Zealand Paralympic team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. It was the most successful team to date with a haul of nine gold medals, six silver and four bronze (and 44 personal bests). Triumph focuses on several disabled Kiwi athletes, from their arrival in the States to victory on the track, in the pool and on the field. The first Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960 with just 400 competitors. In Atlanta 3,500 athletes competed, 35 of them kiwis. Triumph broke ground screening in a primetime slot on TV One.
Tigi Saumalu (Ben Taufua) has worked at an Auckland textile factory for so many years, he is presented with a useless plastic key by his palangi boss to mark the occasion. But Tigi is more excited about getting his grandchildren to represent the factory in an upcoming talent contest. That way he can “pass on the old ways” — and the old Samoan songs — to them. Only the Saumalu children are busy freestyling to a very different sound... Web series The Factory began as a hit stage musical from South Auckland-based theatre and music group Kila Kokonut Krew.
Teuila Blakely began her TV career presenting C4’s live music show Freestyle, before landing an extended role on Shortland Street. Blakely has shown her versatility by appearing in comedy shows (bro’Town, RadiRadiRah and Funny Girls), dramatic series (This is Not My Life) and films (Sione’s Wedding and Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business). She also made a splash as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
Samoan rapper Dei Hamo — real name Sani Sagala — topped the Kiwi charts in 2004 with his bass-heavy debut single ‘We Gon Ride'. It spent five weeks at number one, and stayed in the Top 10 for two months. It also made the Top 40 in Australia. Dei Hamo had been part of the early wave of South Auckland hip hop in the late 1980s, before returning to music in 2002. His debut album First Edition (2005) spawned a second hit with ‘To Tha Floor', which debuted at number five. Although further singles have followed, these days Sagala concentrates on directing music videos. He has made over 50 to date, for everyone from Pieter T to Smashproof — as well as short film The Crossroads: Le Māgafā, about musician Tha Freestyle.
Web series The Factory is the largely light-hearted tale of one South Auckland family, and their love of music — though not everyone in this family agrees which type of music deserves loving the most. A $50,000 talent prize is up for grabs, and the Saumalu family are keen to compete, on behalf of the textile factory where their father and grandfather Tigi work. Only Tigi wants them to perform a traditional Samoan number. The kids would rather freestyle. The 20-part web series was first born as a hit stage musical from theatre group Kila Kokonut Kollective.