Director/producer Paula Jones spent time on the streets of Auckland getting to know the ‘street kids' that are the subjects of this documentary, before she started shooting. With minimal posturing for the camera, the result is an up close portrait of young homeless people with names like Tapu, Baby Girl and Boom Boom. In a non-judgemental way, Jones shows viewers the glue sniffing, alcohol abuse and unplanned pregnancy that is an everyday way of life for many of these kids. The Hidden screened as part of TV3's Inside New Zealand series.
K' Rd Stories was a 2015 series of shorts celebrating one of Auckland’s most colourful strips. In this entry, Dan and Dwayne are “two lovable hustlers with an entrepreneurial spirit trying to scratch a living on the fringes of K Road”. $cratch documents the pair’s efforts to gain entry to the Las Vegas strip club, set up a pop-up tinny shop, and find a girlfriend (“a lot of girlfriends I had in the past gave me nothing but children!”). Dwayne is played by Dwayne Sisson, who co-starred with $cratch director Clint Rarm in Zoe McIntosh’s 2013 rogue-life tale The Deadly Ponies Gang.
Act of Kindness follows the search for one very helpful man, in a country of 11 million people. In 1999 Kiwi Sven Pannell arrived penniless in Rwanda, after bribing himself out of a worrying encounter with rebel militia in Burundi. He was saved by a street beggar who spoke perfect English. Eight years later Pannell got the chance to return to Rwanda with camera in hand, and say thanks — if only he can track his saviour down. Directed by Pannell and Costa Botes (Forgotten Silver), the documentary is a portrait of compassion, obsession, and a nation recovering from tragedy.
Kevin Whana (aka 'Starfish') makes a crust by running onto Auckland intersections and cleaning car windscreens. Sándor Lau's acclaimed documentary adopts a style befitting its charismatic subject: witty and street-smart, coloured by more serious moments where Whana struggles with drugs, the law and homelessness; and rages at wrongs against himself, and the Māori people. Keen to make something "political but also entertaining and emotionally engaging", Lau made the film after realising the best window washers "know it’s like street theatre or performance art".
Creating and playing all of the main characters in Super City made for a "physically exhausting" experience for Madeleine Sami. But the hard yakka paid off, with the first season winning Sami a best actress gong and rave reviews. The show weaved the storylines of very different Aucklanders (five in season one, and four new characters in season two): including a ditzy Indian cheerleader, an Iranian male taxi driver obsessed with Māori culture, and a homeless woman. Taika Waititi (Boy) directed the first series; Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding) took over for season two.
After a young woman (Denise Maunder) falls pregnant, she decides to go against the tide of advice from her family and unsympathetic welfare authorities by keeping her baby. Misery and hardship ensues. Director Paul Maunder brought kitchen sink drama to NZ television with this controversial National Film Unit production. The story can claim to have effected social change, stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers. Keep an eye out for a young Paul Holmes as a wannabe lothario. Maunder writes about making it in this piece. Costa Botes writes about it here.
John Toon's globetrotting award-winning career as a cinematographer encompasses documentary, shorts, TV drama (The Governor) and feature films — Rain, Mr Pip, Kingpin and Sunshine Cleaning among them. He has also shot and directed many commercials.
Former model Ido Drent first won a fan following in 2009 after joining Shortland Street, and taking over the role of Daniel Potts. The character experienced homelessness, was brain damaged after being assaulted, and discovered major revelations over his parents. In late 2012 the South African-born actor headed for Australia, where he got the part of therapist to the main character in hit show Offspring. In 2014 he played INXS drummer Jon Farriss in miniseries INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, before returning home to New Zealand to play a land court lawyer turned military officer in WWl miniseries When We Go to War.
Errol Wright has co-directed a run of festival-selected documentaries with Abi King-Jones, under their CutCutCut Films banner: Te Whānau o Aotearoa, The Last Resort, Operation 8 and The 5th Eye (which examine homelessness, land sales, the 2007 terror raids and surveillance respectively). Wright has also been a camera operator for Alister Barry documentaries (Hollow Men, Hot Air) and television news.
Schooled at Unitec, Auckland University and Juice TV, King-Jones has made a run of NZ film festival-selected documentaries in partnership with Errol Wright: Te Whānau o Aotearoa, The Last Resort, Operation 8 and The 5th Eye (about homelessness, land sales, terror raids and surveillance respectively). With Alister Barry, she co-directed the award-nominated Hot Air; she also edited his A Civilised Society.