According to Māori legend Aotearoa was found by the explorer Kupe, chasing an octopus from Ra'iatea, Tahiti. This documentary follows Northland building contractor Hekenukumai 'Hector' Busby, as he leads the construction of a waka hourua (double-hulled canoe), then retraces Kupe's course across the Pacific, back to Rarotonga. Busby first heads to Tahiti to learn navigation methods used by Polynesia's great ocean voyagers, then returns home to fell a kauri and begin building Te Aurere. Busby would go on to build at least another 20 waka; he passed away in May 2019.
This dramatised documentary looks back to 1955, when a female bottlenose dolphin began appearing regularly in Hokianga Harbour, close to the town of Opononi. Opo became a national celebrity, but died in controversial circumstances on 9 March 1956, the suspected victim of bombing by local fisherman. Directed by Steve La Hood (Numero Bruno, Swimming Lessons), the film recreates events of the summer and explores the belief of local Māori that Opo was a messenger sent by Kupe to unite the people. It includes interviews and extensive archival footage of Opo.
In this 1972 documentary writer James McNeish visits Opononi to examine the life and controversial death of Opo the dolphin. Working from a McNeish idea, director Barry Barclay uses Opo’s mid 50s visit to the Hokianga as the basis for a probing film essay on people, and other animals. Witnesses recall Opo “oomping away”; they include local Piwai Toi, filmmakers Rudall and Ramai Hayward, and author Maurice Shadbolt. Opo is provokingly not shown on screen. Michael King praised Miracle as “without a doubt the most interesting and evocative” slot in the Survey series to date.
Once Were Warriors star Temuera Morrison plays another bully in this episode of te reo series Aroha. Morrison is arrogant mechanic Steam, who verbally abuses an overweight young employee nicknamed Meat Pie (Vince Ata). Steam also has the hots for Meat Pie's mother (Mere Boynton) — his cousin. The story follows the obese young man as he's manipulated by his mum, mocked by his workmates, and pushed around by strangers. One day Meat Pie snaps. The cast also includes Pio Terei (as a woman!), Mika (as a mechanic) and Tame Iti. Puhi Rangiaho (Waka Huia) directs.
Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, exploring te ao Māori and pop culture (it was one of the first shows to show local hip-hop), with presenters speaking in te reo and English. Running for 12 years, it began as a slot on Marae, then screened on Saturday mornings on TV2. Mai Time was a breeding ground for Māori television talent: launching the careers of Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Quinton Hita, Teremoana Rapley and others. It was the brainchild of Tainui Stephens, and was produced by Greg Mayor, then from 2004 by Anahera Higgins.
This 1988 film details a mission by 100 men to paddle a huge waka taua (war canoe) from Waitangi to Whangaroa, chronicling their spiritual and physical journey en route. The camera takes in training, the gruelling 10 hour, 70 kilometre passage, and the vessel's arrival in Whangaroa Harbour to mark Whangaroa County’s centennial. The waka, Ngātokimatawhaorua, was named after Kupe’s original ocean-voyaging canoe. Beached at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, it is the largest waka in existence. This was veteran filmmaker Tainui Stephens' first documentary as a director.
In 1973 Prime Minister Norman Kirk announced that the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi would be a unifying national holiday called New Zealand Day. The inaugural 1974 day featured a royal entourage, was watched by 20,000 people and screened live for TV. Excerpts include the Aotearoa pageant (from giant moa to the Age of Aquarius, including kapa haka, settler cabaret, and Howard Morrison as Kupe), and Kirk’s iconic — and more enduring — speech. New Zealand Day was abolished by the next (National) Government, who renamed it Waitangi Day.
One of many talents to emerge from legendary Wellington company Pacific Films in the 1970s, Mike Hardcastle was often behind the camera during the renaissance of Kiwi feature films. Then he took a break and returned to the industry as the man who could not only shoot your project, but edit it too. Hardcastle passed away on 24 August 2016.
Having already established herself as a playwright, Norelle Scott made the transition to screenwriting by co-writing early Alison Maclean short film Rud's Wife. She then began amassing a CV of screen credits, including Shortland Street, Marlin Bay and cop series Shark in the Park. Currently based in Los Angeles, the former actor and writing lecturer continues her work as a screenwriter, script consultant, and playwright.
Olly Ohlson is a pioneer of Māori language and Māori content on local television. As longtime presenter on daily children's show After School, his catchphrase “Keep cool till after school” (with accompanying sign language) was known to a generation of New Zealanders.