For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
He learnt kapa haka as a child. He learnt to smoulder on Shortland Street. He punched a country in the guts with Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison has starred in Māori westerns, adventure romps, and cannibal comedies. In the backgrounder to this special collection, NZ On Screen editor Ian Pryor traces Temuera Morrison's journey from haka to Hollywood.
Presented by future National Party MP Melissa Lee, this Asia Dynamic episode tells the story (discovered by reporter Bharat Jamnadas) of Nalini Chhima, an Auckland-born Indian woman and accomplished classical dancer, who travels to Navsari, India, to prepare for a traditional marriage. Like her parents, Chhima thinks an arranged marriage has a better chance of surviving than a love marriage. This documentary tracks Chhima’s emotional journey, and her desire to please her parents and be true to her culture. (Asia Dynamic was later re-named Asia Downunder.)
A young woman in colonial New Zealand (played by Jodie Foster, post-Taxi Driver pre-Oscars) flees an orphanage to find herself trapped in an arranged marriage to an older businessman (fellow US actor John Lithgow). Voyeurism, hypnotism and dodgy doctoring feature in the thriller from US director Michael Laughlin, from a screenplay by Jerzy Skolimowski. Mesmerized was made in NZ as an international co-production with RKO during the 80s tax break era. It was released in the US as My Letter to George in 1986. Laughlin also shot cult horror Dead Kids (1981) in NZ.
In this short film, Māori kaumātua Laly Haddon and his Pākehā wife Sharley are interviewed about their relationship to each other and the land. The couple’s kōrero ranges from computers and tapu places, to horse breeding and racism, and provides a lens through which love, biculturalism and belonging are explored. Cathy Macdonald’s film was part of international documentary Other Than, made up of 11 short films touching on the theme of diversity. A 2013 Washington Post review said Turangawaewae was “capable of great feeling”. Ngāti Wai leader Haddon died in Pakiri in July 2013.
Director David Blyth — the man behind Death Warmed Up, New Zealand’s first horror movie — enters the supernatural with his sixth dramatic feature. Newcomer Yoson An plays a Chinese immigrant whose mother has no idea that he has a Kiwi girlfriend. Insistent on an arranged marriage, she takes him to matchmaker Madam Yin (Geeling Ng), whose idea of the perfect bride sees Jason caught up in the ancient Chinese practise of minghūn: a spirit marriage. After premiering at Auckland's 2013 Asia Pacific Film Festival, Ghost Bride was seen extensively across Asia.
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
In 1983, after riots in Sri Lanka ushered in an extended civil war, the number of arrivals from Sri Lanka to New Zealand rose dramatically. This episode, one of the most moving in the Immigrant Nation series, profiles two Sri Lankan families down under - one from the island's Sinhalese majority, one from the minority Tamils. Both families left home out of fear for their children's future. Amidst the challenge of a new culture, there is celebration too: including double marriage ceremonies which require multiple outfits, when a Tamal Christian marries a Hindu.
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.