In this excerpt from Marae, Elle Hughes interviews John O'Shea about producing groundbreaking documentary series Tangata Whenua. Prior to its 1974 screening in primetime — significant, in a time of single channel TV — Māori "lacked a voice" on the Pākehā medium of television. O'Shea says the aim was "a better understanding. We wanted to listen to what the Māori people said". Tangata Whenua captured interviews with kaumatua from different iwi for posterity, and increased Pākehā understanding of land grievances, including the Tainui-led occupation in Raglan in the 1970s.
This award-winning TV series explored whare significant to a community, using the buildings themselves as a vessel for storytelling. Interviews delve into each whare’s design and build, and its cultural and historical significance. This first episode visits Whakatāne to enter Ngāti Awa’s globetrotting meeting house, Mātaatua. After 130 years the building was returned home and restored, following a Treaty of Waitangi settlement. It reopened in 2011. The te reo series was made by the company behind architecture show Whare Māori. To translate, press the 'CC' logo at the bottom of the screen.
Grieving the death of his father, 19-year-old Haami (Michael Koloi from detective series Harry) starts hanging around with a local underground boxing promoter. In order to pay off Haami’s drug debt and keep him safe, his uncle Moko (played by ta moko artist Gordon Toi Hatfield), an ex-street fighter, must make one last sacrifice and step up to fight for his family. Written and directed by Joseph Lee, this gritty short film also features a cameo acting performance by Scotty Morrison, better known as long-time newsreader for Te Karere.
This 1972 documentary explores the world of a dying generation of Māori female elders or kuia — “the last of the Māori women with tattooed chins”. The film pays tribute to the place of the kuia in Māori culture, and of wahine tā moko. Among those on screen are 105-year old Ngahuia Hona, who cooks in hot pools, rolls a cigarette, and eats with whānau, and “the oldest Māori” Nga Kahikatea Wirihana, who remembers the Battle of Ōrākau during the land wars, and has outlived four husbands. Into Antiquity was an early documentary from veteran director Wayne Tourell.
Greg Mayor was one of the only journalists in the world to visit the set of Jane Campion film The Piano. In this report, Mayor and a camera crew from Marae encounter Māori extras on location at Karekare Beach. Actor Pete Smith (The Quiet Earth) undergoes four hours of makeup, most of it getting his moko painstakingly applied; the film's Māori Advisor Waihoroi Shortland remarks that things are improving in terms of how Māori are treated in the film world, but argues that truly Māori stories are yet to be told; and ta moko artist Gordon Hatfield is among the waiting extras.
Taaniko Nordstrom and her sister Vienna are the creative duo behind Soldiers Rd Portraits, who create customised vintage portraits for indigenous people and often work with Māori inmates, reconnecting them with their whakapapa. Wellington filmmaker Louise Pattinson directed and edited this short documentary for the Loading Docs series. She focuses on Soldiers Road working with a group of Māori teenagers trying to find their place in the world. The teenagers tell their stories through letters to tipuna (ancestors), traditional costumes and ta moko.
For this documentary director Gaylene Preston goes behind the scenes during the making of Geoff Murphy's Utu — his ambitious 'puha western' set during the 1870s land wars. “It’s like football innit? You set up the event and cover it…” says Murphy, as he prepares to shoot a battle scene. In this excerpt, the film’s insistence on cultural respect is conveyed: Merata Mita discusses the beauty of ta moko as star Anzac Wallace is transformed into Te Wheke in the makeup chair, and Martyn Sanderson reflects on having his head remade to be blown off: “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”.
Kete Aronui is a documentary series that features leading contemporary Māori artists. Screening on Māori Television, produced by KIWA Media, and funded through Te Māngai Pāho, its title translates as "basket of knowledge." Each episode provides a portrait: surveying the lives and practices of the artists, often with a focus on how they interact with their whanāu and community. The series surveys artists working in a diverse range of mediums, including dance, photography, theatre, film, poetry, music, tā moko, weaving, and sculpture.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.