Screening in primetime at 6pm, People Like Us was built around exploring the spiritual and emotional aspects of people’s lives. Subjects ranged from interviews with leaders — religious and otherwise — to live events and the Red Cross. Mini seasons within the series were devoted to everything from menopause and breaking up, to cultural diversity (the latter fuelling a book as well). Producer Allison Webber managed to win funding from outside of state TV for some of these specials, and the show shared resources on occasion with RNZ’s former Continuing Education Unit.
This 1988 TVNZ documentary looks at Ponsonby through the eyes of some of its oldest identities. It's a pivotal time in the Auckland suburb's evolution from working class preserve to upmarket retail destination and residential area. Gentrification is taking hold, as older residents move on or are forced out by rising property prices. But there are still traces of the old Ponsonby to be seen in the fabled Gluepot tavern, op shops, drop-in centres and a dizzying array of eateries — and there are memories of when Michael Joseph Savage was the local MP.
English pastor John Catmur moved to New Zealand in 2007 after getting a "call from God". Working and living in South Auckland amongst a big Māori population, he was inspired to learn te reo. Says Catmur in this Loading Doc: "When I stood to speak a hunger was fulfilled within my heart. A hunger I never knew I had." Director Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters made this short te reo documentary to help change people's perceptions, so they could see the Māori language as a "valued treasure". Peters was a presenter on TVNZ channel Kidzone, before he did two years reporting for Marae.
The theme for 2016’s batch of Loading Docs was 'change'. This entry stretches the boundaries of documentary, as two high school students engage in an impassioned piece of performance poetry. Mount Albert Grammar School's Jahmal Nightingale and Joseph McNamara film themselves performing their own poetic clarion call for change. The two Gen-Z teens wander Auckland and muse on body image, booze, racism, sexism, and the apocalypse. Director Brendan Withy and producer Doug Dillaman first saw the duo at high school spoken word competition WORD - The Front Line.
In this Good Day interview, Alison Parr talks to Sir Edmund Hillary as he discusses From the Ocean to the Sky, a book about his 1977 jet boat mission up India's holy river, The Ganges. A reflective Sir Ed talks adventure, spirituality and his 'escapist' relationship with Nepal; and Parr probes him on his reluctance to include single women on expeditions. On a more outspoken note, he expresses his dismay at a lack of "positive, inspirational leadership" in contemporary NZ in what is arguably a barely disguised attack on the style of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon.
Kiwi Buddha follows the journey of seven-year-old Rinpoche as he becomes the first Buddhist High Lama incarnated in the Southern Hemisphere. ‘Venerable Pong Re Sung Rap Tulku Rinpoche', is a schoolboy from Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland. The film documents Rinpoche's journey as he leaves small town New Zealand behind (along with McDonalds and Pokemon) to travel to a monastery in the Himalayas where he will spend his next 20 years studying Buddhism. Kiwi Buddha sold to the National Geographic channel and to 60 territories.
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”.
In this episode of his US TV odyssey director Geoff Steven reaches the Deep South. In Memphis, jailer WC Watson introduces his gospel singing family and there are rapturous scenes as they perform at their Beale Street church. In New Orleans, a youth court judge and her lawyer husband attempt to balance jobs and social work with raising their own children. The flipside is provided by descendants of slave owners looking for ways to hold on to their mansions now that the plantations that once supported them have gone.
For this 2015 Marae DIY episode, presenters Ria Hall and Te Ori Paki travel deep into Tūhoe territory to makeover the unique Maungapōhatu marae. The settlement was established by prophet Rua Kenana in 1907, beneath the sacred mountain of Maungapōhatu. The remote location means the Tamakaimoana people have had to embody the DIY of the show’s name. The team uncover relics of Kenana’s circular parliament, gather native bush seasoning for the hangi, and face mud and rain, horses wandering onto the marae, and getting concrete mixers up the steep mountain.
Central North Island art is spotlighted in this episode of the road trip arts show. Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and Nick Ward discuss Len Lye's 'Wind Wand' and visit Michael Smither works in a Catholic church. Novelist Shonagh Koea reads in her favourite antique shop while photographer Sarah Sampson serves tea and discusses her fabric work and "chick art". Rangi and Julie Kipa reconcile traditional Maori process with modern art, performance artists Matt and Stark deconstruct the family sedan; and, in Wanganui, Ross Mitchell-Anyon is proud to call himself a potter.