On 27 July 1965, Auckland fish’n’chip shop owners Sam and Shirley Ann Lawson became parents of a boy — Samuel — and four girls — Deborah, Lisa, Shirlene and Selina. The birth made world headlines as the first set of quintuplets conceived using hormone treatment. But out of the public eye it wasn't happy families: Sam and Ann split up when the quins were six and in 1982 their mother was murdered by her abusive second husband. Director Mark Everton’s award-winning doco regathers the quins, who discuss the ‘quin bond’, tragedy, resilience and their tumultuous lives.
Open Door is a community-based TV series where groups or individuals make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This episode is about Shakti - a support organisation for women from ethnic communities who are in crisis because of domestic violence. Shakti offers immigrant women in violent relationships a safe haven and a helping hand to make a fresh start. Shakti NZ founder Farida Sultana says it is so culturally difficult for some of the women to leave their marriages they can get to the point of being in fear for their lives.
This 2005 documentary tells the story of four New Zealand-born women whose parents come from villages in Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Social worker Emeline Afeaki-Mafile'o, students and mothers Pule Puletaua and Lanni Liuvaie, and playwright Louise Tu’u face the challenges of combining two cultures to forge an identity in Aotearoa — from family, language, food and religion to flatting and hair cutting rituals. As narrator Sandra Kailali says, "to be true to both is hard work: success in one often comes at a cost to the other."
This black and white short film explores a relationship triangle — between a Māori woman, her boorish Pākehā husband, and the woman’s protective father, arguing over rights to a farm. It was made as an Auckland University masters project by Li Geng Xin; he wanted to tell a story using visual language, and choses the expressive mode of the silent film to do so. Māori instruments (taonga puoro) and piano are used on the soundtrack. Mrs Mokemoke was selected for the 2015 NZ International Film Festival, in the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts programme.
In this short film, 14-year-old Jimmy (Waka Rowlands) faces a tough decision: stay in his abusive home to protect his younger siblings, or escape to start a new life of his own. Written and directed by Sam Kelly, Lambs was inspired by true stories. It competed at the 2012 Clermont-Ferrand and Berlin Film Festivals, and won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2012 NZ Film Festival; judge Roger Donaldson raved: “It reminded me of Once Were Warriors in the best possible way.” Lambs was one of the first products of the NZ Film Commission’s ‘Fresh Shorts’ funding scheme.
This documentary turns the lens on acclaimed photographer Andris Apse. The Latvian war refugee later joined the Forest Service, where he was inspired by lensman John Johns and Fiordland; a chance break taking scenic shots for Air New Zealand empowered Apse to pursue his passion: wilderness photography. From his Okarito home and in the wild, Apse muses on the rugged demands of capturing an image and the "stubborn determination" of his craft. From Time to National Geographic, his photos have helped define Aotearoa as a theatre country of epic, elemental landscapes.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
For this 2017 feature film, eight Māori women each directed a 10 minute segment of events circling around the tangi of a boy named Waru. Each director had a day and a single shot to capture their take on the context behind a tragedy. After its debut at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival, Waru won a rush of social media attention, and screened at the Toronto and ImagineNATIVE festivals. The Hollywood Reporter praised it for bringing "a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a suspenseful mystery". Waru was produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton.
Almost two decades before Once Were Warriors, another drama about urban Māori under pressure stirred controversy. Hema (Dale Williams) and Janey (Julie Wehipeihana) are two kids adrift in the city, trying to escape a broken home. Screen historian Trisha Dunleavy found this "the most powerful and controversial" edition of the Winners & Losers series; it was TV's first drama about "the alienation of Māori in a contemporary urban setting". Based on a Witi Ihimaera story, it also marked the first solo directing credit for Ian Mune. He later directed the sequel to Once Were Warriors.
This black comedy sees Kiwi blokes Barry (Tim Gordon) and Kev (Jason Hoyte) set off into the sunrise for a day’s fishing. The ‘men alone’ glories of Godzone in a runabout are disrupted when they discover their attitudes towards domestic violence and sexuality are at odds. Director Adam Stevens adapted the story from a scene in Atrocities, a play written by Hoyte and Jonathon Brugh (aka Sugar and Spice). In 2001 Beautiful went to the New York, Melbourne and Montreal film festivals, before screening at Sundance; it won Best Short Film at the 2003 NZ Film Awards.