In 2006 the two-year long Pasifika Styles exhibition launched at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The show was ground-breaking for confronting the contentious origins of the museum's Pacific artefacts, by inviting 15 contemporary Māori and Pacific artists over to show works and "revitalise the taonga" already on display. Shown on Māori Television, this documentary follows two of the artists, George Nuku and Tracey Tawhiao, from K Road to the cloisters of Cambridge to collaborate with objects, curators, fellow artists and scholars.
The enormous significance to Māori of marae, as places of belonging where ritual and culture can be preserved, is explored in this Pita Turei-directed documentary. Made in conjunction with the NZ Historic Places Trust, it chronicles the programme to restore marae buildings and taonga around the country — and the challenge of maintaining the tribal heritages expressed in them. As well as visiting some of NZ's oldest marae, one of the newest also features — Tapu Te Ranga, in Wellington’s Island Bay, which is being built from recycled demolition wood.
The Ballantyne's Department Store fire in November 1947 claimed 41 lives and left a lasting scar on Christchurch — the city’s biggest single disaster until the 2011 earthquake. The events of that spring day are explored in this short film which intersperses archive footage with a fictional account of workers and customers in the tailoring department as the dramas of everyday life are suddenly overwhelmed. It was directed by Aileen O’Sullivan, shot by Alun Bollinger and made with the NZ Drama School graduating class of 2002 (with music by Gareth Farr).
If ever a Kiwi screen product merited the moniker 'Pasifika tribal fusion', it is this 1998 performance-based short. In Ahi Ataahua veteran cinematographer Warrick ‘Waka’ Attewell (Starlight Hotel, Poi-E) directs the talents of composer Gareth Farr, choreographer Mika and percussion group Strike. The title translates as ‘beautiful fire’, and Attewell’s camera circles a furnace of Strike drummers framed by harakeke and toi toi flowers. At the core of the elemental — fire, water — set is performer Mika, whose body (dressed by Pacific Sisters) channels Farr’s score.
Two presenters are tricked into visiting Rotorua in the fourth series of Māori youth magazine show I AM TV. Host Taupunakohe Tocker excitedly tells Kimo Holtham and Chey Milne they are being sent to Las Vegas, but instead they end up in 'Rotovegas'. Holtham and Milne tour around Rotorua diving for coins at Whakarewarewa Village, eating corn cooked in geothermal water, and meeting locals, including musician JJ Rika. Tocker interviews Tiki Taane and ropes pedestrians in to do air guitar, while Stan Walker shows what it's like backstage at his Auckland concert.
"The story of a four-day journey from Westland to Canterbury, across the Southern Alps." Narration from the four climbers accompanies spectacular alpine imagery in this classic NFU film. In crevasse country they rope up and climb to "half way across the frozen roof of New Zealand" and share a can of tinned pineapple as reward. At Malte Brun Hut they meet Sir Edmund Hillary, Murray Ellis and Harry Ayres, and they descend together down the Tasman Glacier. Ayres reflects on the Alps as training ground for famous polar and Everest expeditions.
This 1962 National Film Unit production is a comprehensive survey of the history and (then) state of Māori carving. Many taonga are filmed on display at Wellington’s Dominion Museum, and the design aspects of ‘whakairo’ are examined, from the spiral motif to the origin of iconic black, red and white colouring. Finding reviving tradition in new “community halls”, the film shows the building of Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt in 1960, recording the processes behind woven tukutuku panels and kowhaiwhai patterns, as the tapping of mallets provides a percussive presence.
In 2003 Toi Māori Aotearoa engaged Charlotte Yates to produce an album and stage performance celebrating the verse of poet Hone Tuwhare. Yates co-opted various musicians (including Dallas Tamaira from Fat Freddy's Drop, and the late Graham Brazier) to transform Tuwhare's poetry into lyrics, using a range of music from rock to dub. This short film by Lala Rolls was commissioned for the album launch; the material was also used in the live show. We see Tuwhare at home at Kaka Point and reciting his poetry against the songs, and glimpse his warmth, humour and literary verve.
A man stands alone in a room, watched by unsmiling faces, before literally falling into the rest of the group. Young women dance in time, their shoes belting out a rhythm on a wooden floor. A strange ritual of falling and rising is played out on a fog-shrouded hill. In this beautifully-lensed dance film, director Warren Green and choreographer Megan Adams take a new approach to showcasing the talents of acting students from drama school Toi Whakaari. The shifting, syncopated soundtrack is by Hamish Walker and David Holmes of Kog Transmissions.
In this 1972 documentary writer James McNeish visits Opononi to examine the life and controversial death of Opo the dolphin. Working from a McNeish idea, director Barry Barclay uses Opo’s mid 50s visit to the Hokianga as the basis for a probing film essay on people, and other animals. Witnesses recall Opo “oomping away”; they include local Piwai Toi, filmmakers Rudall and Ramai Hayward, and author Maurice Shadbolt. Opo is provokingly not shown on screen. Michael King praised Miracle as “without a doubt the most interesting and evocative” slot in the Survey series to date.