Actor Kevin Smith could do it all; from brooding like Brando in a Tennessee Williams play, through Xena, to the gentle romantic lead of Double Booking, and self-parody in Love Mussel. Collected here are selections from a career cut short (he died in a 2002 film-set accident). Plus tributes from James Griffin, Michael Hurst, Geoffrey Dolan and Simon Prast.
This episode of The Gravy takes an in-depth look at art in prisons. Host Warren Maxwell interviews inmates who have embraced painting or carving while serving time in Mt Eden, Paremoremo and Rimutaka prisons. At Rimutaka, art tutor Paul Bradley points out that art is a vehicle for change both for prisoners and the art audience, and former prisoners talk about how art has changed their lives for the better. Outside the walls, Warren visits at a caged exhibit of musical instruments at Artspace in Auckland and plays a few bars on the flute.
Shot down on just his second bombing raid over Germany, James McQueen describes life as a prisoner of war in this interview. Then 93 years old, Invercargill-born McQueen recalls bailing out from a burning Wellington bomber and eventually falling into German hands. After interrogation by the Gestapo he was sent to a p.o.w. camp, where he stayed for two and a half years. McQueen describes life there, his release and the psychological impact of his experiences, including the feeling of failure prompted by his brief time in combat. McQueen passed away on 15 December 2015.
In this 1998 documentary, made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand slot, prisoners provide straight-talking descriptions of life on the inside. Collectively rejecting any idea of prison as a soft option, they talk about missing sunlight, closing up emotionally, and how even “the staunchest” end up crying. One long-timer argues that imprisonment is an expected part of becoming a gang member. Statistics provide food for thought about the life cycle of criminality — 78 per cent of inmates have no school qualifications; 80 per cent were abused as children.
Directed by award-winning current affairs journalist Amanda Millar, this documentary celebrates the life of equality advocate Celia Lashlie. The first female prison officer in a male prison in New Zealand, Lashlie fought to get people the tools for making responsible decisions, from female prisoners to fatherless boys to impoverished children. Lashlie had a particular focus on empowering mothers. The documentary was filmed over the last months of her life, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Celia premiered at the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival.
This acclaimed Māori Television series saw Kiwi musicians teaching bars behind bars — working with prisoners to compose and record songs, drawn from their life experiences. In this opening episode from the third season, Anika Moa, Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi head to Christchurch’s men’s and women’s prisons. For Moa, Ladi6 and Scribe, Christchurch is their "music whakapapa". For Scribe it is a reminder of earthquake tragedy. The jail itself revives memories of childhood visits to his father (an upbringing which the two explored in 2015 play The White Guitar).
Teenage gang girl Tarnz speaks with brutal honesty about her extraordinary life in this documentary. From Maraenui, Napier, Tarnz formed her own girl gang in her teens, amassed 13 convictions and was imprisoned three times. Gang Girl - Tarnz Story was a finalist at the 2007 Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival in Canada. It was made alongside another girl gang documentary, Mob Daughters; both documentaries were produced by Front of the Box Productions and screened on TV2.
Hosted by Francis Kora, this episode of The Gravy is the story of musician and anti-apartheid activist Tigilau (Tigi) Ness, who during the 1970s joined the Polynesian Panthers movement in Auckland. Tigi Ness, the father of hip hop musician Che Fu, recalls his childhood in central Auckland and troubled times with the 1974 dawn raids and protests during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour for which he served nine months in prison. The episode also tells the story of his musical life in reggae bands such as Unity Pacific. Animated segment The Truth takes a look at lambs.
The Beginner's Guide... was a series of half-hour documentaries made for TV ONE, and hosted by reporters Ian Johnstone, Caroline McGrath, Judith Fyfe, John Gordon and Philip Alpers. Veteran broadcaster Johnstone described the programmes as going "into areas of life which intrigue, mystify or frighten us". Topics included visiting a marae, prisons, wealth, bankruptcy, GST, the Census, divorce, cancer and the Freemasons. Three series of six episodes and one special screened between 1983 and 1986.
During a stint in prison for importing drugs, Bill Payne reinvented himself and became a writer. Payne went on to write Staunch (an acclaimed non-fiction book about gangs), short stories, a play, and two short films. Bella was the first. It follows life behind bars for Bella (Mitch Thomas), a defiantly proud transsexual and part-time tattooist, whose mere presence arouses the ire of one of the prison guards. But the guard's taunts are more complicated than they appear. The guard is played by Tim Gordon, who would later play All Blacks coach Graham Henry in telemovie The Kick.