Open Door is a community-based TV series where groups or individuals make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This episode on Autism features interviews with parents of young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The parents talk about how their children were diagnosed, how best to help them, how to be fair to their siblings, working with the school system, and dealing with public attitudes to Autism. There are currently around 40,000 New Zealanders diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This 2015 Loading Docs short follows Tihei Harawira as he freestyle raps at Otara Markets. Diagnosed with autism and dyslexia as a child, Harawira didn’t ‘fit’ and was the victim of bullying. But an appreciative audience at the flea markets — where he busks ad hoc rhymes set to a beat box — have enabled Tihei to find his voice. ‘Tihei’ means “the breath of life”, a name he was given by an aunty after being resuscitated at birth. Tihei was directed by Hamish Bennett and produced by Orlando Stewart, the team behind 2014 NZ Film Festival award-winner Ross & Beth.
In a wooden cabin on the edge of the forest, a strange young girl referred to only as 'Kid' holds court over her trapper Dad and his isolated bush family; she sits beneath the dinner table, makes animal sounds and refuses to be washed. This pitch-black fable is told through the eyes — and distinctive voice — of her sympathetic brother 'Little Man', who one night makes a fateful decision that liberates her into the wild. Filmed in gas-lit sepia by Leon Narbey, the atmospheric and award-winning film announced the directorial talents of the late Brad McGann.
Little Bushman muso Warren Maxwell goes west in this edition of The Gravy, to meet a trio of artists creating work in the shadow of Mt Taranaki. Waru Wharehoka, an autistic painter, makes abstract works, is obsessed with weapons and zombies, and takes Maxwell on a paddle beneath New Plymouth. Assemblage artist Dale Copeland scavenges plane wrecks on the mountain and dead friend's teeth for her art. And photographer Fiona Clark discusses why she used colour film to snap her controversial 1975 drag queen images, and using a photo to help save the Waitara River.
Brad McGann's debut feature In My Father's Den won awards in Germany, China, England, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand; The Australian reviewer called it "one of the best films I have ever seen". McGann had earlier won acclaim for his moody fourth short Possum (1997). McGann passed away from cancer in May 2007. He was only 43.
Virginie Le Brun began her screen career with six years as a presenter on music channel Juice TV, before moving to What Now?. From 2008 she did two year-long stints on Shortland Street, as doctor Gabrielle Jacobs. Her portrayal of the head of surgery who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome won praise from the show’s fans, and organisation Autism New Zealand. Le Brun is daughter of winemakers Adele and Daniel Le Brun.
The multi-talented Jackie van Beek emerged from Wellington’s theatre scene in the 1990s. After directing a run of award-winning shorts, her first feature The Inland Road was invited to the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. She went on to co-direct, co-write and co-star in comedy The Breaker Upperers, with Madeleine Sami. As an actor, van Beek is probably best known for playing a vampire groupie on What We Do in the Shadows.
Auckland-born Denson Baker moved to Australia while still a child. Since then his award-studded career has balanced down under work, with shoots across the globe. Triple nominated for autism drama The Black Balloon, he scored awards with his fourth feature: the Indian-shot Waiting City, starring Joel Edgerton and directed by Baker's future wife Claire McCarthy. Baker also shot acclaimed Cliff Curtis drama The Dark Horse and NZ short Lambs.
Shirlie Fairbrother arrived in New Zealand in 1986 with her partner Keith Lambert. Together they set up Morningside Productions, and Lambert created the Open Door series to give community groups a voice on television. Following his death in 2007, Fairbrother continued to produce and direct Open Door. One of her episodes, 'Road to Recovery', won a Special Media Award at the 2008 MHS Mental Health Conference.