For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
In this 1998 documentary, made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand slot, prisoners provide straight-talking descriptions of life on the inside. Collectively rejecting any idea of prison as a soft option, they talk about missing sunlight, closing up emotionally, and how even “the staunchest” end up crying. One long-timer argues that imprisonment is an expected part of becoming a gang member. Statistics provide food for thought about the life cycle of criminality — 78 per cent of inmates have no school qualifications; 80 per cent were abused as children.
This acclaimed Māori Television series saw Kiwi musicians teaching bars behind bars — working with prisoners to compose and record songs, drawn from their life experiences. In this opening episode from the third season, Anika Moa, Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi head to Christchurch’s men’s and women’s prisons. For Moa, Ladi6 and Scribe, Christchurch is their "music whakapapa". For Scribe it is a reminder of earthquake tragedy. The jail itself revives memories of childhood visits to his father (an upbringing which the two explored in 2015 play The White Guitar).
Five strangers give up their freedom to live in the confines of an apartment together in this 2004 reality series. It’s not all for nought though — $40,000 is up for grabs. Alliances are formed and newfound friendships quickly betrayed, as the contestants try to keep things civil with their inescapable roommates. The contestants in this first episode are builder Riki, project officer Marcella, business developer Brett, and students CC and “nice guy” Arron. Retracting walls leading to the quiz area and food delivered in a perspex box remind contestants they are totally trapped.
This 1976 documentary examines India’s third Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Her father took office as Prime Minister in 1947, the day India became independent from Britain. Framed around an extended interview with Gandhi, reporter Dairne Shanahan explores India and Indira’s history, and her controversial ‘emergency’ governing of the democracy’s 600 million people. The documentary was directed by Barry Barclay. As this article explains, Shanahan hoped it would be the pilot for a series, but it was never made. In October 1984 Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards.
During a stint in prison for importing drugs, Bill Payne reinvented himself and became a writer. Payne went on to write Staunch (an acclaimed non-fiction book about gangs), short stories, a play, and two short films. Bella was the first. It follows life behind bars for Bella (Mitch Thomas), a defiantly proud transsexual and part-time tattooist, whose mere presence arouses the ire of one of the prison guards. But the guard's taunts are more complicated than they appear. The guard is played by Tim Gordon, who would later play All Blacks coach Graham Henry in telemovie The Kick.
Sedition - The Suppression of Dissent in World War II New Zealand chronicles the experiences of Kiwi pacifists during wartime. New laws affecting meetings, mail and media coverage meant that talking about pacifism could result in arrest, and imprisonment. By June 1940, holding more than one copy of a 'subversive' magazine could mean nine months hard labour. Ironically many of the MPs backing the laws had earlier been imprisoned for their anti-war beliefs; while Christian Pacifist Society leader Ormond Burton was twice decorated for bravery during World War I.
This documentary follows the police investigation that lead to the capture and imprisonment of South Auckland rapist Joseph Thompson. He was the first serial rapist convicted in New Zealand. Using re-enactments and in depth interviews with police, the Keith Hunter-directed doco examines how the relatively new technology of DNA matching and criminal profiling led to the arrest of Thompson in 1995. Viewers are not spared details of his long-lasting and brutal rampage which targeted girls as young as 10. Thompson was eventually sentenced to over 30 years in prison.
The first part of this disturbing double documentary focuses on the man accused of molesting seven children in a Christchurch crèche in 1992. The programme is divided into seven chapters, in which Ellis talks about his accusation and arrest, the trial, his prison sentence, his two appeals and his eventual release in 2000. Ellis initially thought the accusation was so ridiculous that it would soon get sorted out. Instead, he was found guilty on 16 charges and convicted to 10 years imprisonment, despite the lack of any conclusive evidence.
Broadcaster Ian Johnstone was an intrepid explorer for TVNZ's 80s Beginner's Guide documentary series; the series embedded personal guides to lift the veil on everything from marae protocol to the Freemasons. This edition sees a crime (embezzlement of TVNZ money) pinned to 47-year-old Johnstone by the CIB and so begins his (fictional) experience of judicial process and imprisonment. A humbled Johnstone aims to convey what life behind bars is like, and bust some myths en route, from "they only serve half their time don’t they?" to "it's like a four star hotel".