In the beginning — of both movies and books — is the word. Many classic Kiwi films and television dramas have come from books (Sleeping Dogs, Whale Rider); and many writers have found new readers, through being celebrated and adapted on screen. This collection showcases Kiwi books and authors on screen. Plus check out booklover Finlay Macdonald's backgrounder.
This three-part documentary series was made to mark International Women's Year in 1975; it provides rare and precious interview footage with three of New Zealand's most celebrated writers; Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh; who each reflect on their life and philosophy. In the case of Ashton-Warner and Marsh, these documentaries were filmed in the last decade of their lives. Three New Zealanders was produced by John Barnett for Endeavour Films.
In this dark whodunit Gareth Reeves (The Cult, A Song of Good) stars as a crime writer who goes bush with strangers, while on a break from researching a story on a serial killer. Soon there’s death in the muddy Waitakere back-blocks. The film marked the big screen debut of filmmaking partners James Napier Robertson and Tom Hern, en route to their high profile drama The Dark Horse. The results won support from a strong ensemble cast (Ian Mune, Ilona Rodgers), an invitation to the NZ film festival, and praise from NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder for "smart writing and good acting".
Three New Zealanders was a documentary series that looked at the lives of three of NZ's most celebrated writers: Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh. Produced by Endeavour Films (John Barnett), the final chapter of this three-part series centres on internationally acclaimed crime-writer and Shakespearean director Dame Ngaio Marsh. It contains an interview with Marsh in her later years, interspersed with comments from former students and friends, and re-enactments from her novels (with the Blerta crew as players, and John Bach as Hamlet!).
Peter Jackson has gone from shy fanboy to master of his craft; from Pukerua Bay to Wellywood. With six journeys into Middle-earth now behind him, he has few peers in the realm of large scale filmmaking. Led by early 'behind the scenes' docos this collection pays tribute to PJ's journey, from re-making King Kong in his backyard to err ... re-making King Kong in his backyard.
Ngaio Marsh Theatre adapted for television four murder mysteries from crime writer Dame Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder, Died in the Wool, Colour Scheme, and Opening Night (with the latter the only one not set in her homeland). Starring UK actor George Baker (Bond, Dial M for Murder, I, Claudius) as Inspector Roderick Alleyn — the rational Englishman solving murderous crimes in the green and pleasant colony — the series successfully leveraged the international appeal of Marsh's novels. Ngaio Marsh Theatre was the first NZ TV drama to screen in the US (on PBS).
Classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune won a devoted following over six seasons. Prequel show Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safe cracker Ted West (David de Lautour) and his fiery wife Rita (Outrageous actor Antonia Prebble). Each episode of series one was set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two was set during the 1981 Springbok Tour; a third, set in 1982, followed in 2017. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the writing team behind the original.
Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.
Iaheto Ah Hi's play Tautai involved an urban car thief emulating his Tokelauan fishing ancestors — only instead of hunting sharks, he hunted cars. Twelve years and 27 drafts after first seeing the play, director Michael Bennett and co-writer Gavin Strawhan intertwined Tautai's story with seven other characters, each impacted by one moment of violence. Praising the "excellent ensemble" and Don McGlashan score, Herald reviewer Peter Calder argued that Matariki delivers "a touching series of intersecting stories about the fragility of life and the redeeming power of love".
Aileen O’Sullivan has a significant screen pedigree, from acting to directing, producing and – most importantly – storytelling. Her work ranges from Gloss and The Billy T James Show to Holiday and The Great New Zealand Showdown specials. Under her production company Seannachie Productions, O'Sullivan's has helmed a number of well received documentaries including Witi Ihimaera, Black Grace – From Cannon’s Creek to Jacob’s Pillow, Life’s a Riot and Ngaio Marsh – Crime Queen.