In 1968 eight Japanese teenagers won an art competition; their prize was a week long visit to the country they'd imagined on canvas. It's a busy itinerary — the students land in Wellington and take an obligatory cable car ride before visiting Parliament and the museum. The steamy wonderland of Rotorua is next, a dairy farm visit is a big success and Sir Edmund Hillary joins the teens for an authentic Kiwi barbeque. Shy smiles abound when one student meets her Kiwi pen pal for the first time. This is a rare example of a New Zealand television documentary from the 1960s.
In this family-friendly feature, Santa (Finnish actor Kari Väänänen) does a runner to a beach in Aotearoa days before his big night of the year, fed up with bureaucracy and brats. It falls to two Kiwi kids to get him out of the southern sun, and back to global gift giving. Director Tony Simpson (Kiwi Flyer) pitches the North Pole native against Kiwi biosecurity and a bickering camping family (including Step Dave's Sia Trockenheim). Sunday Star Times critic James Croot praised the trio of writers for delivering "a rare 21st century effort that evokes the memory of the great kidult dramedies."
The final episode of this long-running TVNZ show for Māori youth comes from a BBQ party atop Auckland's TVNZ HQ. When I AM TV began in 2008 it was all about Bebo. Five years later it’s about Bieber (the singer #tautokos the show), Skux and Twitter, and the hashtag #KeepingItReo. Hosts Kimo Houltham and Chey Milne review the year’s highlights: from Koroneihana to a boil up with Katchafire; from dance crews to hunting for Jeff da Māori, with Liam Messam and The Waikato Chiefs; from a Samoan holiday (with co-presenter Taupunakohe Tocker), to defining mana in 2012.
In 2001 Meng Foon was the only serving New Zealand mayor to speak fluent Māori and Cantonese — and that was still the case when this documentary was made in 2013. Foon campaigns for a fifth term as mayor of Gisborne, appearing on local radio shows, door knocking and travelling long distances to connect with locals in small towns. Foon and his family talk about their Chinese heritage, and Foon reveals a lesser-known musical talent. Foon cultivated a deep relationship with the large Māori community in the Tairāwhiti district. In 2019 he resigned after 18 years as mayor.
Christmas time can mix joy and stress in equal measure. Both feature in this documentary, which follows four New Zealand families in the lead up to Christmas Day celebrations. Jenny Johnson is preparing for an "old-fashioned" Christmas with her two adult daughters back in town, while the Hinds children adjust to Christmas post divorce. The Thayer family remind us that no one loves Christmas more than kids, but for Piripi and his grandparents the focus is spiritual, not material. As the day arrives, presents are ripped open and new memories are formed.
Classic sci-fi series Under the Mountain follows redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — as they battle the alien Wilberforces. This fourth episode sees the twins venture into the aliens' submarine lair for the first time. The lair's moody production design, the NZ Symphony Orchestra's score, and creepy transmogrifying special effects contributed to the slimy imprint the series left on a generation of Kiwi kids, haunted by the giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland's volcanoes. The award-winning series was adapted from the Maurice Gee novel.