Section 7 was New Zealand’s first urban TV drama series and followed soon after Pukemanu (which was set in a logging town). Taking its name from the Criminal Justice Act section which placed offenders on probation, it focussed on a Probation Service office and addressed issues of the day including new migrants, ship girls and domestic violence. Expatriate Ewen Solon returned from England to take the lead role in a series very much based on British dramas of the time. More popular with critics than the public, Section 7 was limited to 11 half-hour episodes.
This documentary about the sex industry in New Zealand features frank but sympathetic interviews with sex workers (including the Prostitutes Collective) and their clients. Topics discussed include the sex workers' reasons for doing the job, physical and sexual safety, the impact of AIDS, the role of drink and drug abuse, and managing a relationship with a husband or boyfriend. The film screened on TV3 after arguments about censorship, which Costa Botes writes about here. A Double Standard makes a compelling case for the industry to be decriminalised. Law change occurred in 2003.
The light-hearted but star-heavy I'll Make You Happy unapologetically showcases a group of Auckland prostitutes, united by girl power — and a general distaste for their pimp (Michael Hurst). Jodie Rimmer dons many wigs and personas as Siggy, the spunky young sex worker who fends off Hurst's pleading advances, while pulling a nerdy banker (Ian Hughes) into her plans for a game-changing heist. The eclectic soundtrack is heavy on electronica, while the cast includes Rena Owen, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, dancer Taiaroa Royal, and a one-minute cameo by Lucy Lawless.
In a nod to his theatre training, Whale Rider actor Rawiri Paratene (then better known as a presenter on Play School) unveils three stories to a marae audience. A bored schoolboy (Faifua Amiga) banters with a sarcastic teacher; a musical number features a prostitute (Rena Owen) and her client; and a young girl and her grandfather prepare and wait for the body of her father at the pā. This was the first screen drama directed by Don Selwyn, who argued "what Rawiri is saying in his script is that there are lots of things Māori which are left out of the education system."
In more repressed times, Carmen was one of NZ's most colourful and controversial figures. Geoff Steven's doco traces the life story of the transgender icon who was born Trevor Rupe in Taumarunui in 1936 and went on to be a dancer, sex worker, madam, cafe owner — and one of the few non-MPs to appear before the Privileges Committee. Steven shines a light on a bygone era of gay culture but avoids the temptation to focus on the seedy — opting, instead, for extended fantasy sequences (featuring Neil Gudsell aka Mika) to illustrate key moments in Carmen's life.
Richard Turner made Squeeze to break the "conspiracy of silence" about homosexuality. A pioneering early portrait of Auckland's LGBT scene, Squeeze centres on the relationship between a young man (Paul Eady) and the confident executive (Robert Shannon) who romances him, then mentions he has a fiancée. The film was discussed in Parliament after Patricia Bartlett campaigned against the possibility it might get NZ Film Commission funding (it didn't). Kevin Thomas in The LA Times praised Squeeze's integrity and the "steadfast compassion with which it views its hero".
Director Murray Keane was inspired to make this documentary after his wife Fiona Samuel focussed exclusively on women for her earlier doco about the loss of virginity and its effect on lives. The companion film features seven men aged from 20 to 80 talking candidly about their different experiences of 'the first time'. Keane illustrates these very personal stories with quirky, colourful visuals as his participants muse on an event that few were really prepared for and which was transcendent for some, confusing for others and a nightmare of abuse for one of them.
Director Grahame McLean uses the notorious (then recent) 'Mr Asia' drug smuggling saga as fodder for this Wellington underbelly tale. Hello Sailor’s Harry Lyon headlines as a musician and ex-con who partners with a beautiful journo to investigate a global drug syndicate, in between nightclub sessions with fellow musos Beaver and Hammond Gamble. High on 80s guitar licks, Should I be Good? was made in the tax break era without Film Commission investment. McLean followed it right away with The Lie of the Land, becoming a rare Kiwi to make two movies back to back.
Fifteen-year-old James is a suburban kid who tries to have it all one night on Courtenay Place. A sensitive lead turn from newcomer Aaron McGregor captures the intensity of being taken by the night, as booze and hormones derail romantic intentions. Choice Night was a second short collaboration between director Christopher Dudman and writer Paul Stanley Ward, loosely based on the latter’s experiences as a teenager in 90s Wellington. It was selected for the Clermont-Ferrand (in competition) and BFI London film festivals, and won Best International Short at Geneva.
'Ship girls' are the subject of this episode of the NZBC’s Probation Service drama. Hapless Janice (Freda Costley), a 19-year-old with a father who moved to Whakatane and a mother she doesn’t see if she can help it, is looking for love in the wrong places: sneaking onto the wharves to party with sailors in the hope she’ll find a boyfriend. Now the police have arrested her and, if she’s not careful, she’ll end up in borstal. Will the Probation Officers (Ewen Solon and Glynis McNicholl) be able to "stop her gangway habit becoming an addiction"?