NZ On Screen's Pacific Collection celebrates many things — many islands, many cultures, and the many Pasifika creatives who have enriched Aotearoa, by bringing their stories to the screen. The collection is curated by Stephen Stehlin, whose involvement in flagship Pacific magazine show Tagata Pasifika goes back to its very first season. In his backgrounder, Stehlin touches on sovereignty, diversity, Polyfest and bro'Town — and the relationship between Pacific peoples and Māori in Aotearoa.
As part of the radical 80s neoliberal reform of the public and corporate sector in New Zealand, many government-run assets were turned into state owned enterprises; some were sold off to foreign buyers. Screening on TV3, this 1991 film, written by Metro columnist Bruce Jesson, examines the controversial programme by asking “who owns this country and who controls it?”. Those answering range from businesspeople to politicians, academics, journalists, vox pops and critics of the ‘cashing-in’, from the Hamilton Jet family to UK environmentalist Teddy Goldsmith.
The final episode of the first season of this colonial comedy tackles the Treaty, as settler Henry Vole argues that his land (purchased off a bloke he met at a bar in Tauranga) is fairly his. The pros and cons of a treaty are debated: “where all Māori may benefit from the administration that gave us the 18 hour working day for children”. Te Tutu counters with a Martin Luther King dream: “where the English are not marginalised in Aotearoa simply because they are a minority … where the English language won’t be lost because we’ll have Pākehā language nests …”
Variously praised as a major step forward in indigenous cinema, attacked for overambition, and little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned follow-up to Ngati. This story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees Barclay plunging into issues of control of indigenous culture he would return to in book Mana Tuturu. Feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home. Barclay and his longtime producer John O’Shea had their own differences over Te Rua’s final cut.
On October 15 2007, citing evidence of guerilla camps involving firearms training, police raided 60 houses across NZ, many of them in Ruatoki, near Whakatane. In production for almost as many years as the ensuing legal proceedings, this provocative documentary proposes that the so-called “anti-terrorism” raids were bungled, racist and needlessly terrifying to children. The film’s subtitle ‘Deep in the Forest’ is inspired by ex Red Squad second-in-command Ross Meurant, who argues that as police move into specialist units they grow increasingly paranoid.
This 1997 Inside New Zealand documentary looks at the evolution of modern Māori political activism, from young 70s rebels Ngā Tamatoa, to Te Kawariki's protest at Waitangi Day in 1995. Directed by Paora Maxwell, it is framed around interviews with key figures (Syd Jackson, Hone Harawira, Ken Mair, Mike Smith, Annette Sykes, Eva Rickard, Joe Hawke). The interviewees explore events, and the kaupapa behind their activism, from thoughts on sovereignty, and the Treaty of Waitangi, through to symbolism (tree felling, land marches) and being kaitiaki of the environment.
More than 20 years on, 'Treaty' remains as infectious as it does relevant, mixing haka, hip hop and funk to present a message on Māori sovereignty. Channelling the colours of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, the video creates a fitting backdrop for lyrics delivered via the stirring vocals of Moana and the Moahunters, verses by rapper Bennett Pomana (Upper Hutt Posse, Dam Native), and elements of traditional performance. According to director Ross Cunningham, the set design was inspired by Ralph Hotere illustrations from a book of Hone Tuwhare poems.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.