This much praised documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective documentary, part historical reenactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. This excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua “made the city of God on Earth”.
The Insatiable Moon is the tale of a man with nothing but wisdom, joy and possibly a direct line to God. Arthur (Rawiri Paratene) wanders the streets of Ponsonby, where he finds perfection (Sara Wiseman) just as his community of boarding house friends faces threat. Producer Mike Riddell first wrote The Insatiable Moon as a 1997 novel, inspired by people he met while he was a clergyman in Ponsonby. The film’s extended development almost saw it made in England with Timothy Spall - before finally coming home, “on half a shoestring and a heap of passion”.
The first episode of Jam TV’s 2013 series on inspirational Kiwis follows Helena McAlpine’s journey as she deals with terminal breast cancer. The ebullient spirit of the ex-C4 presenter permeates the episode, as she talks about her mental health struggles, her bucket list, living in the fast lane, fishing with mate Clarke Gayford, leaving her daughter without a mum, advocacy work for cancer awareness campaigns, and the ‘McAlpine theory on life’ — choose to be happy. "I really don’t see myself as a sack of sadness". McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
A documentary about author Janet Frame based on the eponymous biography by Michael King. It travels through the familiar Frame themes - her alleged mental illness, family tragedies, overseas stays, how she began writing. Its value, and fresh insight, lies in the interviews with Frame's close friends and key figures in her life. They shed light on her personality and achievements. King in particular provides a considered, often-amusing account of Frame's life. This was his last interview for film; he was killed in a car accident in 2004.
In the first episode of The Candles Wasters’ multimedia web series, Hannah Moore (Nova Moala-Knox) struggles to deal with the sudden departure of her dad, and her art teacher romancing her mum — who happens to be the school principal. It’s downhill from there. Helped by best friend Isla, Hannah finds solace in the comic book she is creating, which in real life can be read online at Radio New Zealand. The comic involves a brave knight who must overthrow a usurper, after the King vanishes. Featuring a dark sense of humour, the series deals with mental illness and loss.
This fresh, unhurried film is drawn from a substantial interview with renowned writer Janet Frame by Michael Noonan; filmed largely at at Frame’s then-home on Whangaparoa Peninsula. It was part of the Three New Zealanders series made to commemorate the 1975 International Year of Women — an early John Barnett production. The rare footage of Frame — here aged 50 — presents a confident writer in her prime, and negates any stereotypes about Frame's inarticulacy or shyness. Note: the segments from the programme dramatising some of Frame’s work are not included here.
An iconoclast with a bent for experimentation, director Paul Maunder brought the mixed flavours of social realism and the arthouse to New Zealand screens in the 1960s and 70s, before shifting stages and leaving the government's National Film Unit, to concentrate on theatre. His second feature Sons for the Return Home (1979) as the first film to dramatise the experience of Pacific Islanders living in contemporary New Zealand.
John Reid made his feature debut with an acclaimed version of hit Roger Hall stage play Middle Age Spread. He went on to direct three more features ranging from raw comedy to moody arthouse pieces — plus documentaries, TV dramas and commercials. Reid has also been head tutor at the New Zealand Film and Television School in Wellington, and written the definitive book on the history of Pacific Films.
Mark McNeill has been making documentaries for over 20 years. Along the way he has shown a knack for offbeat factual programming, including work with Te Radar and psychologist Nigel Latta. In 1999 McNeill launched company Razor Films. He and Latta went on to reshape The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show for a primetime Australian slot. In 2018 McNeill become the first Kiwi producer to make a series for Netflix.
Vincent Ward has won an international reputation as an original and visionary filmmaker. Vigil and The Navigator played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival (the first New Zealand features to do so). Docudrama Rain of the Children (2008) revisited people from his 1980 documentary In Spring One Plants Alone. Ward also directed Robin Williams afterlife drama What Dreams May Come.