Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
This series was made for Maori TV (Kaupoai means “cowboy”) about the summer rodeo circuit, and the cowboys (and occasional cowgirl) who battle it out with bulls, broncos and each other for the title of Cowboy of the Year. Voiced in te reo, it follows the progress of members of five families from the East Coast (the home of NZ rodeo) including four brothers from New Zealand’s rodeo royalty, the Church family (with their father a 13 time winner). The physical challenges — and toll — are plain to see; but competition, camaraderie and prize money conquer most fears.
In this Paul Swadel-directed short, a work-gang on a remote Ruapehu construction site relieves boredom with cruelty. The edgy male camaraderie escalates towards a tense, inevitably dire — and OSH-unfriendly — conclusion. The scrum of Kiwi blokes going Lord of the Flies on the newbie (Marek Sumich) is played by a powerhouse cast: Marton Csokas, Rawiri Paratene, and Frank Whitten. Adapted by John Cranna from his short story, Accidents was filmed under the Makatote viaduct. It was selected for Venice Film Festival and won a special jury mention at Clermont-Ferrand.
Award-winning actor Jennifer Ludlam has played a range of strong female characters in TV shows such as Cover Story, Gloss, and Undercover. She spent time in Australia appearing in a number of dramas including Prisoner and Sons and Daughters. Returning to New Zealand, Ludlam starred in Sima Urale’s feature film Apron Strings.
Jared Turner is the familiar face telling us how to conserve power in the Energy Spot commercials. Though born in New Zealand, Turner began his screen career on Aussie soap All Saints, before crossing the Tasman for 2004 film Fracture. Since then he has appeared in hit Kiwi dramas The Almighty Johnsons, Go Girls and Outrageous Fortune.
Katrina Hobbs is a TV presenter and actor who has had roles in New Zealand, Australia and even Russia. She kicked off her screen career as a teen hero in The Boy from Andromeda and a young wife in the war film Absent Without Leave. Since then she has appeared in a large number of TV shows such as Shortland Street, Marlin Bay, Cover Story and Willy Nilly. As well as acting, she has presented factual shows including More than Sport, Destination Ski New Zealand and Russia Today.
Wayne Leonard has directed some of the highest-rated live events on New Zealand television. Since leaving TVNZ in the early 2000s to go freelance, he has continued to be one of the country’s premiere live directors, and helmed TV series ranging from hit panel show Game of Two Halves to My Kitchen Rules. In 2013 his coverage of the America’s Cup in San Francisco was nominated for multiple Sports Emmy awards.
The late Margaret Thomson is arguably the first New Zealand woman to have directed films. Thomson spent much of her film career working in England, plus two years back in New Zealand at the National Film Unit. Her NFU short Railway Worker (1948) is regarded as a classic.
For 20 years Kathleen O'Brien was the only woman director at the government's National Film Unit. Her films were invited to festivals overseas. Known for her work involving children and education, O'Brien's directed comical road safety short Monkey Tale (1952), and the moving Story of Seven Hundred Polish Children (1966).
By 2001 Russell Crowe was an international star, thanks to award-winning performances in The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. Born in New Zealand and raised on both sides of the Tasman, the Oscar winner continues to act in feature films, and in 2014 made his movie directing debut with Aussie hit The Water Diviner. Once known as Auckland singer Russ le Roq, Crowe also sings in band The Ordinary Fear of God.