Director John Laing followed acclaimed romance Other Halves with an equally stylish but very different big city tale: a thriller in which three orphans plan an international heist to avenge the killing of one of their fathers. The expected diet of shootings, skulduggery and globetrotting accents is enlived by side trips to Geneva, songs from romantic interest Jennifer Ward-Lealand, and a cast of villains to die for (Peter Bland, Ian Mune, Anzac Wallace, Grant Tilly). When Dangerous Orphans was sold in Europe it set an early record for a New Zealand film.
Described by writer/director Paolo Rotondo as a “drama about how adults need kids as much as kids need adults”, Orphans & Kingdoms follows three teens on the run, who break into a holiday home to hide out. Then the owner (Colin Moy, who played the brother of the main character in In My Father’s Den) arrives home, followed by the police. Shot on Waiheke Island, the low-budget Escalator film had a sell-out world premiere at the 2014 Auckland Film Festival, before winning a Moa award for best editing. Best known as an actor, Rotondo won awards for writing short film Dead Letters.
This 1986 Kaleidoscope excerpt visits the world’s premier film festival. Reporter and future Once Were Warriors producer Robin Scholes begins with the official competition – where two years before Vigil vied for the top prize, the Palme d’Or – then focuses on Kiwi films being promoted in the marketplace. She interviews the NZ Film Commission's Lindsay Shelton (selling Arriving Tuesday); Dorothee Pinfold (Dangerous Orphans), asks producer Larry Parr (Bridge to Nowhere) if Kiwi films can survive without tax breaks, and chats to Challenge Films' Henry Fownes and Paul Davis.
A colonial widow, recently arrived in New Zealand from England, answers an advertisement from a stoic settler for a wife. They agree to an arrangement. Later Mrs Brown forms an attachment to their Māori servant girl Atawhai, and slowly learns the secret behind her presence. Written by playwright April Phillips (who also plays Mrs Brown) this short film was directed by Christchurch theatre director Craig Hutchison. It was filmed at Wellington's Nairn Street Cottage. ‘Utu Pihikete’ was a derogatory term for half-caste children meaning “paid for in biscuits”.
This edition of the 1987 Inspiration series on Kiwi artists looks at potter James (Jim) Greig, and his search for the “spark of life” found in clay. The Peter Coates-directed documentary visits Greig’s Wairarapa studio to interview him and his wife Rhondda, also an artist. Greig’s influences are surveyed: the work of Kiwi potter Len Castle, nature, orphanhood, and Japan (where his work achieved renown). The film captures the visceral process of making large works for a Wellington City Gallery exhibition. Greig died of a heart attack, aged 50, while this film was being made.
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.
Cushla Dillon was a newbie editor when she worked on the TV series and film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives. Dillon won an NZ Film editing award for her work on the movie, then went on to cut an impressive list of documentaries, shorts and feature films. Notable documentaries she has worked on include The Price of Peace and The Confessions of Prisoner T. Dillon’s feature credits include Orphans & Kingdoms, The Price of Milk and Snakeskin (which she edited with Marcus D'Arcy).
Veteran producer/director John Laing has worked in film and television in New Zealand, Canada and the UK. His feature films include the Arthur Allan Thomas-inspired Beyond Reasonable Doubt, cross-cultural romance Other Halves and thriller Dangerous Orphans. Laing has also directed a long list of popular drama series for TV, including Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Street Legal, Inside Straight and Marlin Bay; plus tele-feature Safe House.
Brooke Fraser took her inspiration for ‘Albertine’ from a girl she met in Rwanda who had been orphaned by the Rwandan genocide, which claimed 800,000 lives in 1994. Believing that “faith without deeds is dead”, Fraser resolved to tell the orphan's story to the world. A similar determination to be more than just a “voyeur of tragedy” is underlined in Anthony Rose’s elegantly understated video, which deals not in terrible statistics but the humanity of everyday people in Rwanda. ‘Albertine’ won the 2007 APRA Silver Scroll for songwriting.
Alongside a successful career in musical theatre in Australia, actor Ross Girven has tackled a variety of television roles on both sides of the Tasman, and starred in landmark 1987 New Zealand film Ngati. He debuted on television here in trucking drama Roche, then had roles in a run of TV shows in the 1980s such as Peppermint Twist and The Marching Girls. Girven has also acted in Gloss and Shortland Street, and movie thriller Dangerous Orphans. More recently, he has appeared in Aussie cop show Water Rats, and NZ dramas Orange Roughies and The Cult.