For 150 years, southern right whales (tohorā) were hunted to the brink of extinction. But the discovery of a “lost tribe” in the Southern Ocean sparked hope that their numbers are increasing. This documentary — made by veteran nature filmmaker Max Quinn for The Discovery Channel — follows a research expedition to learn about the pod. Breathtaking and intimate underwater footage, including a fabled white whale and new-born calf, reveals the behavior of these gentle giants. The award-winning film also captures soaring royal albatross, vomiting sea lions, and a flightless duck.
Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
Jonathan Brough’s documentary on the making of Whale Rider travels from the East Coast town of Whangara, where the mythical whale rider Paikea landed, to Hollywood. This excerpt concentrates on the movie’s vital special effects component: nine whales, brought to the screen through a combination of life-sized models and digital effects. The models were made by Auckland company Glasshammer; the largest measured 65 feet in length. The human element was also important, with actor Keisha Castle-Hughes describing the challenges of filming the whale-riding scenes.
Naturalist Ramari Stewart never tires of the view from a subantarctic hut. "This is the only place I know where I can see a whale out my window and it’s never let me down." The documentary follows Stewart as she spends a summer and winter monitoring wildlife at remote Northwest Bay in Campbell Island. Southern right whales, Hooker's sea lions and elephant seals all feature. Stewart, who later became a whale expert, displays a jaw-dropping bond with the animals. At the end of the programme, the whales cause a stir when they play perilously close to Stewart's boat.
Dave Dobbyn and his DD Smash sidekick Peter "Rooda" Warren play dress-ups in this Aussie-made music video for the Kiwi classic. A skylarking Dobbyn gets to be a TV journalist, a filmmaker, and even a vicar; but it is heart-throb of the day Warren who bares his chest (and budgie-smugglers) as he is strapped into a sexy speed-racer jump suit. 80s big hair and make-up abound. What the Duran Duran-esque shenanigans have to do with the wistful sea shanty-style song is anyone's guess. Warren's model girlfriend of the time Debra Mains also makes an appearance.
Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
Rachel House is an accomplished theatre actor and director, but she has also established a strong screen career, beginning with gritty roles in Tiger Country and Queenie and Pete. Since then she has played both comedic and dramatic parts in a string of high profile movies, including Whale Rider, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy.
Rawiri Paratene (Ngā Puhi) was the first Māori student to graduate from the New Zealand Drama School, and he has since made an indelible mark on the NZ screenscape. Paratene’s small screen career began with a small part on The Governor, and playing Koro in 70s sitcom Joe and Koro. Paratene then hosted daily pre-school show Play School. Paratene is also an acclaimed writer whose credits include the TV dramas Erua and Dead Certs. On the big screen, Paratene has played the role of reformed gang member Mulla in What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?; but it was his role as Koro in Whale Rider that garnered him international recognition.
South Pacific Pictures marked its 30th anniversary in 2018. With drama production at its core, this collection highlights the production company’s prodigious output. The collection spans everything from Marlin Bay to Westside — including hit movies Sione's Wedding and Whale Rider — plus the long-running and beloved Shortland Street. In the backgrounder, longtime SPP boss John Barnett reminisces, and charts the company’s history.
The Coming-of-Age collection includes many of New Zealand's most beloved films. Featured are grumpy uncles, annoying parents, plus a wide range of children and teens negotiating the challenges of growing older — and wiser. Among the young actors making an early mark are an Oscar-nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), James Rolleston (Boy) and 12-year-old Fiona Kaye (Vigil). The titles include Alone, the winner of NZ On Screen's very first ScreenTest film contest. In the backgrounder, young Kiwi actor Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie writes from New York.