He Toki Huna sets out to provide an independent overview of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan (the longest overseas war in which NZ has played a role). The documentary follows writer Jon Stephenson conducting eyewitness interviews in Afghanistan, and poses tough questions about the involvement of Kiwi troops in a conflict that co-director Kay Ellmers calls an “ill-defined war against an unclear” enemy. Ellmers and Annie Goldson made the Moa Award-winning film for Māori Television. An extended cut played at the 2013 NZ International Film Festival.
This film tells the story of a group of Afghani refugees rescued from the high seas off Australia by the freighter, Tampa. It follows the fate of several boys who were given the chance of a fresh start in New Zealand. Deftly blending observational sequences and historical footage, Pacific Solution examines the socio-politicial context of a growing worldwide refugee crisis. It was filmed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Australia, Nauru and New Zealand. Pacific Solution was screened by TVNZ and at festivals internationally.
In 2007 Willie Apiata, of the NZ Army's elite SAS unit, was awarded the Victoria Cross for carrying a wounded soldier to safety while under fire in Afghanistan. This documentary had exclusive access to Corporal Apiata, from the moment he was told about the VC to his decision a few weeks later to gift the medal to the nation. The shy soldier struggles to deal with his sudden celebrity, and military bosses have to cope with the dual demand of handling media interest in the VC win while still keeping the work of the SAS relatively secret.
On land, sea and air during World War II, and from Korea to Vietnam, this group of old soldiers remember their years of service. Close calls are common place but often laughed off, but the horror of war is often close to the surface. The third series of interviews from director David Blyth (Our Oldest Soldier) and RSA museum curator Patricia Stroud provide a valuable archive of a time now almost beyond living memory — particularly World War II, as the veterans enter their 90s and beyond.
When the Taliban attempted to destroy reels upon reels of historic Afghan film, a group of brave archivists hid the films away in a few dusty sheds in the middle of the desert. When German-based Afghani filmmaker Ibrahim Arafy returned to the Middle East to track down and restore the long hidden films, Kiwi filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly joined him, to tell the story of the archive's restoration under immensely trying conditions. Working with unskilled labourers amidst ongoing conflict, Arafy’s team do their best to save an integral part of their nation’s culture.
Billy Graham was a a poor, restless, dyslexic boy from Lower Hutt who was taken under the wing of a boxing coach and became an amateur champion. In 2006 Graham set up his first boxing academy in his home suburb. Now he runs five gyms, training young people to have pride in themselves and their bodies. This 42-minute documentary was directed by award-winner Mark Albiston (The Six Dollar Fifty Man). It follows a group of young Kiwis who have found acceptance and inspiration on the floor at Graham's gym. Billy and the Kids debuted at the 2019 NZ International Film Festival.
Annie Goldson, NZOM, is probably New Zealand's most award-laden documentary filmmaker. She is known for her thought-provoking feature-length documentaries Punitive Damage, Georgie Girl, An Island Calling, and Brother Number One. Goldson’s recent documentary He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan (made with Kay Ellmers) looks at New Zealand’s longest millitary engagement.
Pietra Brettkelly is an award-winning New Zealand filmmaker who travels the world to make her documentaries. The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, her Sundance-selected film about international adoption, won best director and documentary at the 2009 Qantas Film and TV Awards. Māori Boy Genius was invited to the Berlin, Sydney and NZ Film Festivals.
Māori Television’s flagship news show began in 2007, with a kaupapa of tackling current affairs from a Te Ao Māori perspective. Coverage of Waitangi Day, elections, plus investigations (eg into the Urewera Raids, Kiwi troops in Afghanistan, and management of the Kōhanga Reo National Trust) saw Native Affairs win acclaim, plus Best Current Affairs Show at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards. Reporters have included Julian Wilcox, Mihingarangi Forbes, Renee Kahukura-Iosefa and Maramena Roderick. In 2015 the one-hour running time was reduced to 30 minutes.
Kiwi Pietra Brettkelly travels the globe making documentaries.