The annual interschool celebration of Māori and Pasifika dance began in 1976 at Hillary College in Otara. By the 21st Century, nearly 100,000 spectators and participants attended and it was sponsored by ASB. Over the years Polyfest was covered by both the news, and specialist shows like Tagata Pasifika and Marae. Full coverage was first taken on by Front of the Box Productions in the 2000s; later it went back to TVNZ's Māori and Pacific Programme section, followed by Tikilounge Productions. Coverage of the kapa haka stage was picked up by Māori Television.
The first movie from Otara-based Pele Nili — aka musician Siavani — is the music heavy story of a man trying to do right by his family and his community. After tragedy hits his family, Solomon (played by Nili) returns to the neighbourhood he grew up in, and makes it his mission to ensure his brothers and other local youth don’t make his mistakes. Originally filmed in Manukau in 2010, the "likeable, and often completely loveable" (Stuff's Graeme Tuckett) movie was self-funded — and inspired by workshops Nili ran in South Auckland, that provided training in the arts.
In this 2012 short film, young Samoan Kiwi Suni (Beulah Koale) has to choose between his family — and its traditional values — and gang life. His wayward cousin pressures him towards the gang. Ōtara actor Koale had a breakout role in short film Manurewa (2010), and would go on to star in feature The Last Saint, before winning roles in America (Hawaii Five-O). Suni Man was directed, written and produced by Hamish Mortland, inspired by a true story he heard from a schoolmate. The film screened as an education resource in South Auckland community centres.
This Elemeno P video sees the band performing inside a storage freezer in an ice cream factory. "There was no legitimate reason for shooting in a freezer," recalls director Greg Page ('Exit to the City', 'Super Gyration'). "I just enjoy torturing the bands I work with." The location was secured through Flying Fish Executive Producer James Moore, whose family owned an icecream factory in Otara. Page recalls the challenges of filming in below freezing temperatures here.
In this fifth episode from his personal examination of New Zealand at the end of the 70s, Ian Johnstone explores the then new suburb of Massey in West Auckland — the latest instalment in what seemed, at the time, like an unending march of urban sprawl (which had already produced seemingly far-flung suburbs like Otara and Porirua). For Johnstone, Massey is an "infestation of houses", bafflingly lacking in community amenities. By turns wry, considered and accusatory, this masterful performance would have made him few friends in town planning circles.
Launched in 1992, Marae is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. It aims to keep its audience in touch with the issues — political or otherwise — that affect Māori, and explain kauapa Māori from a Māori perspective. The Marae Digipoll is seen as a respected barometer of matters Māori. Marae was relaunched briefly in October 2010 as Marae Investigates, presented by Scotty Morrison and Jodi Ihaka Marae (and later Miriama Kamo) . Screening on TV One, Marae is presented half in english and half in te reoi. It is now made by company Pango Productions.
Kingpin was the second of a trilogy of films from Mike Walker about troubled New Zealand youth (the others were Kingi's Story and TV movie Mark II) Filmed at, and inspired by residents of Kohitere Boys Training Centre in Levin, the bros-in-borstal tale follows a group of teens who are wards of the state. Kingpin focuses on the bond between Riki (Mitchell Manuel) and Willie (Fafua 'Junior' Amiga), who along with the other kids are terrorised by Karl (Nicholas Rogers), the Kingpin of the title. It was directed by Walker, who co-wrote the script with Manuel.
Producer Rhonda Kite founded company Kiwa Media Group, which developed a successful programme to aid dubbing and dialogue recording, and made long-running Māori Television arts series Kete Aronui. Kite's award-winning slate of documentaries includes films on the Ōtara community, gangs, whāngai, and squeegee bandits. Kiwa Digital went on to focus on creating interactive books for mobile devices.
For more than 20 years, Haunui Royal has been driven by the desire to be part of a vibrant Māori voice in broadcasting. The director turned executive got his break at TVNZ in 1988, before directing everything from a long line of documentaries (The Truth about Māori), to entertainment (Havoc and Newsboy's Sellout Tour). Later he spent seven years as General Manager of Programming at Māori Television.
Lisa Taouma has a laufala bag spilling over with Pasifika screen credits. She has directed on Tagata Pasifika, helmed TV2’s Polyfest and made documentaries on subjects from Samoan tattoo to fa’afafine. She produces pioneering PI youth show Fresh with Mario Gaoa, and in 2014 launched Polynesian online community Coconet. Taouma also wrote short films Brown Sugar and Talk of the Town.