A taonga in Māori culture is a treasured thing, whether tangible (eg. a letter, photo, or heirloom) or intangible (eg. a family story). This series uses taonga — whose protection is enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi — as a starting point to tell dramatic Māori stories from the last 150 years. Weaving documentary techniques with re-enactments, Taonga features the stories of Guide Sophia, Sir Maui Pomare and Penetito Hawea among others. It screened on Māori Television in 2006, and featured actors Ian Mune, Rawiri Paratene, Taungaroa Emile and Miriama McDowell.
The devastating effects of introduced wasps in New Zealand, particularly on kaka (the forest parrot, here beautifully filmed) remain a serious issue. The horde of yellow and black marauders has left scientists struggling to protect animal and human victims. This film looks at the effect on the ecosystem of wasps, who compete with natives for honeydew and prey upon insects. Bandits of the Beech Forest won the Environment Prize for Best Film Illustrating Protection, Preservation or Conservation of Bird Life at the Festival du Film de l'Oiseau.
In early 1974, NZ had more than just the Commonwealth Games on its mind. Norman Kirk’s Labour government was promoting social and ecological issues and the NZBC's 24 radio stations launched a yearlong 'I Care' campaign for the protection of the environment. A contest to find a theme song was won by John Hanlon whose credentials as a conservation crooner had been established with his eco-anthem 'Damn the Dam'. The launch in Petone was presided over by conservation minister Joe Walding, an understated logo was unveiled, and Hanlon performed his winning song.
This documentary advocates for the protection of one of the last pristine ecosystems on earth: The Ross Sea. Veteran cameraman Peter Young vividly captures the frozen wilderness — freewheeling penguins, fish and sealions under the aquamarine ice — and interviews scientists concerned at threats posed by commercial fishing (including from New Zealand-owned boats). The film confronts unsuspecting New York diners with the origins of their fish, exposing upmarket ‘Chilean sea bass’ as Antarctic toothfish. Last Ocean won Best Film at the 2013 Reel Earth Film Festival.
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.
Described by New Zealand Geographic as the "doyen of New Zealand diving", Wade Doak was an author, marine ecologist and conservationist. Along with Kelly Tarlton he was a pioneer of underwater exploration and filming in Aotearoa. Behind and in front of the camera, he contributed to documentaries for Wild South and production company NHNZ, and showcased Aotearoa’s undersea world to wide audiences.
Barry Barclay — director of landmark TV series Tangata Whenua and feature film Ngati — was a longtime campaigner for the right of indigenous people to tell their own stories, to their own people. In 2004 he was made an Arts Foundation Laureate, and in 2007 a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. Barclay passed away on 19 February 2008, after publishing his acclaimed book Mana Tuturu.
While still in his 20s Chris Thomson was given command of a number of landmark New Zealand TV dramas, including genre-hopping colonial tale The Killing of Kane and The Alpha Plan (1969), Aotearoa’s first dramatic TV series. After time working for the BBC, he moved to Australia and began a busy career as a director, including credits on high profile mini-series 1915 and Waterfront. Thomson died on 1 July 2015.
After working at the National Film Unit, the BBC and Canada's National Film Board, John Laing made his feature film debut as a director with Arthur Allan Thomas drama Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980). Since then he has directed another six features, and many television shows and tele-movies. Laing has also produced for both Outrageous Fortune and Mercy Peak.
New Zealand-born Erroll Shand majored in acting at the University of Southern Queensland, then returned home in the early 2000s after early roles on Australian television. Shand has gone on to carve out a memorable gallery of bad guys — from drug kingpin Terry Clark in Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud and the dodgy boyfriend in witness protection tale Safe House, to terrifying gangleader ‘Chocka’ Fahey in cop drama Harry. The roles haven't all been criminal. In movie The Z-Nail Gang he was a surfer and family man, while 2017 series Dear Murderer saw him playing a crown prosecutor.