Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
Classic Kiwi play Joyful and Triumphant followed the Bishop family over four decades, from 1949 to 1989. Written by Robert Lord, it charted changes in New Zealand society by focusing on the minutae of Christmas Day family dynamics. The play was first performed to sellout audiences in 1992, a month after Lord died. It won multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Directed by Peter Sharp (The Fire-Raiser), this TV adaptation features Robyn Malcolm and Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry — plus Catherine Downes and Bruce Phillips, who both appeared in the original production.
This black and white short film explores a relationship triangle — between a Māori woman, her boorish Pākehā husband, and the woman’s protective father, arguing over rights to a farm. It was made as an Auckland University masters project by Li Geng Xin; he wanted to tell a story using visual language, and choses the expressive mode of the silent film to do so. Māori instruments (taonga puoro) and piano are used on the soundtrack. Mrs Mokemoke was selected for the 2015 NZ International Film Festival, in the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts programme.
As the Operations Manager for Womad (World Of Music, Arts and Dance) in New Plymouth, Chris Herlihy performs the essential but often mundane jobs that make this large-scale outdoor event an annual success story. This half-hour documentary follows Herlihy and his crew as he oversees the pop-up city that is Womad 2011 — from looking after VIPs and fixing ticket problems, to mopping up the loos. New Plymouth has fully embraced Womad. Herlihy's love for the festival and his colleagues shines through as he power walks around the beautiful Brooklands Park site.
This documentary tells the story of Moana Ngārimu the sole soldier from the Māori Battalion to be awarded (posthumously) the Victoria Cross during WWII. On 26th March 1943, at Tebaga Gap in Tunisia, the Second Lieutenant took a key position and defended it (as well as injured men) overnight, before being killed in a counter-attack. He was 24. The doco was made for TVNZ for the 50th anniversary of his death. It looks at his life and features moving archive and interviews with Ngārimu's friends and family in Ruatoria, and battalion comrades. Presented by Wira Gardiner.
For this 2017 feature film, eight Māori women each directed a 10 minute segment of events circling around the tangi of a boy named Waru. Each director had a day and a single shot to capture their take on the context behind a tragedy. After its debut at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival, Waru won a rush of social media attention, and screened at the Toronto and ImagineNATIVE festivals. The Hollywood Reporter praised it for bringing "a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a suspenseful mystery". Waru was produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton.
In this feature film, Tama, a distressed young man, becomes entwined with five families coping with suicide on a journey from Parihaka to Te Rerenga Wairua. A mysterious woman, Hine-nui-te-pō, prompts Tama to confront the finality of death. Director Paora Joseph (Children of Parihaka) mixes drama and documentary, in the hope his film will provoke kōrero around mental health, and offer a pathway through darkness. Niwa Whatuira (The Dark Horse) and newcomer Hera Foley play the lead roles. Māui’s Hook was set to debut at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
While playing at the beach with their grandmother, two children witness an Elvis impersonator walk out of the sea. They believe he's the "fishman" lover of a female taniwha, Hine Tai. Magic realist mayhem — and tragedy — ensues as the stranger stirs up the life of their whanau in the quiet fishing village. The fable, written by Briar Grace-Smith and directed by Peter Burger, received six nominations at 2002 NZ TV Awards, winning Best Drama, and Camera. It screened on TV3 and features the Bic Runga song 'All Fall Down'.
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.
Australian Idol winner Stan Walker made his acting debut in this hit feature, as aspiring singer Turei. Part of a whānau of Māori potato pickers from Pukekohe, he has to choose between duty to job and family (Temuera Morrison plays his hard-working Dad) and letting the music play. His dilemma takes place as reggae star Bob Marley performs in Aotearoa in 1979, offering the chance for Turei's band Small Axe to win a supporting slot at Marley's Western Springs concert. Released on Waitangi Day 2013, Tearepa Kahi's debut feature became the most successful local release of the year.