When she made Mauri, Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to write and direct a dramatic feature. Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and changing ways of life in a dwindling East Coast town. As with Barry Barclay film Ngāti, Mauri played a key role in the burgeoning Māori screen industry. The crew numbered 33 Māori and 20 Pākehā, including interns from Hawkes Bay wānanga. Kiwi art icon Ralph Hotere was production designer; the cast included Zac Wallace (star of Utu) and Māori activist Eva Rickard.
This short film, made for the second season of Loading Docs, goes beneath a manhole cover to explore a secret history of Auckland’s Queen Street. Waihorotiu is a quest down from the skyscraper canopy of New Zealand’s largest city to find traces of Waihorotiu — an ancient waterway situated under the concrete. Archive material and animation explore the awa's history, from tangiwha lair (the water of Horotiu) to fetid canal and brick sewer severed from its natural source. The film was directed by Frances Haszard and Louis Olsen; Pita Turei narrates.
The enormous significance to Māori of marae, as places of belonging where ritual and culture can be preserved, is explored in this Pita Turei-directed documentary. Made in conjunction with the NZ Historic Places Trust, it chronicles the programme to restore marae buildings and taonga around the country — and the challenge of maintaining the tribal heritages expressed in them. As well as visiting some of NZ's oldest marae, one of the newest also features — Tapu Te Ranga, in Wellington’s Island Bay, which is being built from recycled demolition wood.
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.
The largest gathering ever seen of Māori tribal war canoes (waka taua) was one of the centrepieces of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1990. This documentary, narrated by Tukuroirangi Morgan, followed the ambitious countrywide programme to build the ornately carved waka, and assemble them at Waitangi as a demonstration of Māori pride and unity. The 22 strong fleet, powered by 1000 paddlers, also fulfilled a dream of Tainui leader Princess Te Puea Herangi that had been curtailed 50 years earlier by World War II.
Pita Turei's wide-ranging documentary explores the history of nuclear testing in the Pacific — and its relationship with French colonialism in Tahiti (which locals claim has made them strangers or "Hotu Painu" in their own land). There is compelling testimony of serious health effects from previous tests; and Turei's cameras follow a Greenpeace protest flotilla to Moruroa as the French keep watch. Interwoven throughout is the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and its aftermath, as DGSE agents are tried and the ship finds a final resting place at Matauri Bay.
Tim Woodhouse has cut some of New Zealand’s most celebrated documentaries since crossing from Australia in 1989. Although he won a Best Editing award for drama Staunch, Woodhouse has largely specialised in documentary. En route he has worked with director Leanne Pooley on Haunting Douglas, Topp Twins hit Untouchable Girls, Beyond The Edge (about Hillary on Everest), and animated film 25 April.