Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), the matriarch of a Fijian family in Auckland, feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. She demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast, at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren reluctantly turn up, but tiffs spin things into chaos and she calls the whole thing off. Based on his second play, this love letter to the suburb of Mt Roskill marked the first film for director Toa Fraser (Dean Spanley). It screened at many festivals internationally, and won the 2006 World Cinema audience award at American festival Sundance.
This intense newsreel reports from the war in the Pacific in Easter 1944, as American, Fijian, and New Zealand soldiers battle the Japanese in the Bougainville jungle. Cameraman Stan Wemyss found himself isolated with a Fijian patrol, amidst casualties and under fire from 'Japs'. He later recounted being so close to the action he could hear troops talking in two languages he couldn't understand; at one point he lays down his camera to pitch a grenade. Grandfather of future actor Russell Crowe, Wemyss was awarded an MBE in 1947 for his services as a war correspondent.
This 1983 film looks at New Zealand in World War II, via a compilation of footage from the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series, which screened in NZ cinemas from 1941 to 1946. It begins with Prime Minister Savage’s “where Britain goes, we go” speech, and covers campaigns in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, and life on the home front. The propaganda film excerpts are augmented with narration and graphics giving context to the war effort. Helen Martin called it "a fascinating record of documentary filmmaking at a crucial time in the country’s history".
The end of World War II is in sight in the 10th episode of this series about 20th century history. But there's still fighting to be done by New Zealand troops and their allies, as they battle tenacious Japanese forces in the Pacific. Future Prime Minister Jack Marshall addresses his men in the jungle, and war correspondent Stan Wemyss recalls being under fire with Fijian troops in the jungles of Bougainville (while his footage of the event plays). When the war finally ends, Prime Minister Peter Fraser delivers his victory speech and there is dancing in the streets.
This short film finds four 1990s teenagers caught up in the complications of growing up in Hutt Valley suburbia. Rising tensions during a day hanging out at the local park see misfit Rory (Riley Brophy) ignite a cracker bag of cravings for belonging, furtive sexual feelings, violence, racism and boredom. The combustive results of his misdirected teen spirit give the film’s title a grim irony. Fijian-born director Shahir Daud based the story loosely on his own experiences as a teen. Double Happy screened at the Montreal Film Festival and was a Short of the Week website pick in May 2011.
This offbeat father and son feature was written by Scotsman Alan Sharp, and mostly filmed in the UK by a Fijian-Brit Kiwi. Lawrence of Arabia legend Peter O'Toole plays a stiff upper lip Englishman whose frosty relationship with his son warms after hearing an extraordinary tale of reincarnation from Reverend Dean Spanley (Sam Neill). Based on an Edward Plunkett novella, Toa Fraser's second feature won praise for its cast, and mix of comedy and poignancy, "intertwined to the last" (The Age). Spanley won a host of Qantas awards; GQ rated it their film of the year.
This headline-grabbing 1979 documentary examines inequality via interviews with an unemployed student, a young widow and a Porirua family of eight; plus visits to a Fijian village and a Hong Kong housing estate. The film's arguments that business and government monopolies had caused poverty in “egalitarian New Zealand”, and that NZ trade practices had added to it elsewhere, displeased Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. State television refused to screen the Greg Stitt-directed documentary; CORSO, the charity who commissioned it, was removed from the government’s funding list.
Jonno Woodford-Robinson has edited everything from features (Taika Waititi's debut Eagle vs Shark) to commercials (such as Telecom's Meerkats campaign). Woodford-Robinson's other features include Alison Maclean's The Rehearsal, Mahana and pioneering Fijian film The Land Has Eyes. A frequent collaborator with director Jason Stutter, Woodford-Robinson's projects include Stutter's adaptation of novel Predicament. After several nominations, he picked up his first New Zealand Film Award in 2017 for his work as co-editor (with Mike Horton) of Lee Tamahori's rural drama Mahana.
The long career of Stan Wemyss ranged from South Pacific skirmishes to Māori legends, and gleaming refrigerators. Winner of an MBE after getting caught up in combat in Bougainville as a National Film Unit cameraman, Wemyss later spent many years with commercials company Peach Wemyss. He also produced pioneering te reo TV drama Uenuku.
A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.