Service station worker Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Māori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. Directed by Curtis Vowell (his debut) the script was adapted by Henderson from her theatre monologue, and shot in 20 days via the NZFC’s low budget Escalator scheme. The twist on the Hine-nui-te-po myth was a breakout hit of the 2013 NZ Film Festival. NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry raved: “one of the freshest New Zealand films to come along in years”.
Presented by Kiwi TV pioneer Shirley Maddock, Islands of the Gulf was New Zealand’s first locally made documentary series. In this episode Maddock makes the 50 mile seaplane flight from Auckland to Great Barrier. Accompanied by ever present birdsong, she proves an eloquent, attentive guide to ‘The Barrier’. She recounts the SS Wairarapa tragedy and pigeon post, tramps to old kauri dams, and surveys the quirks of transport for the 240 people then living on the rugged bush-clad island, from the Land Rover-driving nurse, to a Chrysler taxi once owned by Al Capone.
Hooks and Feelers tells the story of a painter haunted by an accident in which her son lost a hand. Written and directed by Melanie Rodriga, the 45-minute psychological drama explores guilt and reconciliation as the family adjusts to his disability. An adaptation of the short story by future Booker Prize-winner Keri Hulme, Hooks and Feelers starred jazz singer Bridgette Allen and Keith Aberdein (Smash Palace). It screened on TV in 1984. With producer Don Reynolds, Rodriga (then known as Melanie Read) would go on to make pioneering feminist thriller Trial Run (1984).
This 1962 National Film Unit short uses the relationship between Māori and manu (birds) as a platform to celebrate New Zealand bush birds — from food source and key roles in myth, to their general character. Legend of Birds was filmed on Kāpiti and Little Barrier Islands. Many of the images were captured by noted nature photographers Kenneth and Jean Bigwood, and the score is by composer Larry Pruden. The narration includes a rap-style tribute to the kākā parrot: “squarks about his indigestion, population and congestion … politics the current question”.
Stephen Lovatt’s acting career has taken him from ancient Rome to Ramsey Street. Aside from five years acting on Neighbours in Australia, he has played everything from reliable and unreliable dads to Hades, Lord of the Dead in shows like Go Girls, Being Eve, Marlin Bay, Shortland Street, and Xena: Warrior Princess. He has also appeared in a number of features — including acclaimed 2013 movie Fantail.
Director Nic Gorman won best short at the 2013 NZ Film Awards for zombie tale Here Be Monsters. With his first feature he shifts horror genres to the psychological thriller, as a mysterious new arrival (Vinnie Bennett) disturbs subantarctic island life for a husband and wife scientist team (Fantail's Sophie Henderson and Siege's Mark Mitchinson). Human Traces debuted at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival. NZ Herald reviewer George Fenwick praised the "stunning cinematography" and "impressive performances", arguing they helped produce a "fine debut" for Gorman.
Two years after graduating in 2007 from acting studies at Unitec, Sophie Henderson joined the ensemble on Outrageous Fortune. She played Bailey, the hard-nosed lawyer girlfriend of both West twins. In 2013 her acclaimed debut feature Fantail won a place in the NZ International Film Festival. Henderson wrote and starred, playing “a girl called Tania who thinks she’s Māori”. In 2017 she co-starred in drama Human Traces — this time as a scientist who encounters a stranger, while working with her husband on an isolated island. In 2019 Henderson and her partner Curtis Vowell began making their second feature Baby, Done.
Curtis Vowell began acting in short films while studying at drama school Toi Whakaari in Wellington. Vowell has worked as both an actor and assistant director. In 2014 he made his directing debut with movie Fantail, starring (and written by) his partner Sophie Henderson. The tale of a young petrol station worker who identifies as Māori was acclaimed as fresh, "funny and dark and sad" (The Listener). In 2019 the couple began filming their second feature: comedy Gone, Baby. Comedian Rose Matafeo stars as a tree surgeon rushing through her bucket list after falling pregnant.
Stephen Lovatt's acting career has taken him from Arcadia to Takapuna Beach, with stops in Shortland Street, Ramsay Street and ancient Rome. Award-nominated for his starring role in 2002 feature This is Not a Love Story, Lovatt's screen CV includes roles in Spartacus, Being Eve and a five-year-run in Australian export Neighbours. The Toi Whakaari grad is also an acclaimed theatre actor.
Ainsley Gardiner, MNZM, has been a producer on a run of successful short films and hit movies. She worked with Taika Waititi and Cliff Curtis on Oscar-nominated short Tama Tu, and features Eagle vs Shark and Boy. Then Gardiner launched Miss Conception Films with fellow producer Georgina Conder. Their work includes hit comedy The Breaker Uppers and documentary She Shears.