My God - Gareth Morgan

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan is typically forthright as he explains his atheism in this episode from the TV One series about spirituality. Morgan walked away from a Reserve Bank job to live in a bus (from where he eventually founded his company Infometrics). He talks candidly about childhood operations for a cleft lip and his decision to give away the millions earned from his investment in Trade Me (founded by his son Sam) but is less than charitable in his views on accountants. Note: Morgan does not worship Bastet (the Egyptian goddess of cats).

My God - Ray Avery

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

Ethical entrepreneur, medical pioneer and inaugural New Zealander of the Year, Sir Ray Avery traverses his life, work and beliefs in this episode from a TV One documentary series about spirituality. English-born Avery is a passionate and entertaining raconteur as he recounts his “overnight success story” which took 18 years and saw him overcome a childhood of neglect and abuse. His highly successful company has no permanent employees but has touched hundreds of thousands of lives with low cost, life saving medical devices manufactured in developing nations.  

God Defend New Zealand

Television, 2011 (Full Length)

This David Farrier-fronted documentary traces the history of New Zealand's national anthem. Farrier dives into the archives to tell the story of the Thomas Bracken poem set to music by John Joseph Woods; and a band of 2011 musos have a bash at updating it. The patriotic ditty was first played at an Olympic medal ceremony when our rowing eight won gold in 1972, displacing 'God Save the Queen'; and it was adapted into Māori as early as 1882 but a te reo version still caused controversy in 1999. The doco screened on TV3 the day before the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.

Series

My God

Television, 2007–2011

Presenter Chris Nichol explored the spirituality of New Zealanders in this interview based documentary series. It ran for five years and was intended to broaden TV One’s religious programming to reflect a growing diversity of faiths and philosophical approaches to life (from conventional religions through to a Wiccan, a rationalist and an atheist). Each episode examined the life and beliefs of one person and subjects included Sir Ray Avery, Gareth Morgan, Wynton Rufer, Moana Maniapoto, Joy Cowley, Nandor Tanczos, Ahmed Zaoui and Ilona Rogers.

Bob Jones - Doing God's Work?

Television, 1984 (Full Length)

This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and talking up his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The outspoken advocate for free market liberalisation drew crowds at halls across New Zealand. The Rocky theme music shamelessly plays as boxing fan Jones approaches the rostrum. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote. The documentary includes scenes of the libertarian attempting to dictate how television media filmed him.

God, Sreenu and Me

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

Filmmaker Stewart Main traverses India seeking enlightenment. There he meets ex-pat Kiwis who seem to have found it, which only leaves him feeling trapped in a life of the senses. Especially when he falls for his Indian sound recordist, Sreenu. Or so he would have us think. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art documentary slot, Main's startling, provocative film explores the cracks between the divine and the sensual, documentary and fiction. Director Andrew Bancroft writes about the result in this backgrounder.

About Face - The Lamb of God

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Two decades before the animals of Black Sheep run amok, comes this Sunday night horror about a couple trapped in the countryside as the sheep start getting restless. In between encounters with a cheerful butcher and a man of God, we learn that New Zealand has undergone revolution: anyone who farms or harms animals is now branded a criminal. Directed by Costa Botes; scripted by poet and lawyer Piers Davies, who co-wrote Skin Deep (plus cult movie The Cars that Ate Paris, with acclaimed Australian director Peter Weir).   

The God Boy

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand and wrestling with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.

Taller Than God

Strawpeople, Music Video, 1996

Director Justin Pemberton takes this love song by Paul Casserly and Fiona McDonald (from fourth Strawpeople album Vicarious) and transforms it into an exercise in noir influenced, brooding unease. His video takes place over a night at a rural motel (with McDonald as a receptionist, and Casserly up to no good with a range of medical equipment). A tarot card-reading, yoga-practising new-ager, a traveller with unexplained cages, and random appearances from stringed instrument-playing senior citizens contribute to the growing sense of disquiet.

Interview

Ben Barrington: On playing doctors and gods on TV...

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

Ben Barrington began his screen career on Wellington-based TV show The Strip. He won the role of a doctor on the acclaimed The Insiders Guide to Happiness before appearing as a gang leader in Outrageous Fortune. Since then, Barrington has co-starred as a Norse god in The Almighty Johnsons, shown some fancy footwork on Dancing with the Stars, and  in 2015 began playing a doctor again on Shortland Street.