In this excerpt from Marae, Elle Hughes interviews John O'Shea about producing groundbreaking documentary series Tangata Whenua. Prior to its 1974 screening in primetime — significant, in a time of single channel TV — Māori "lacked a voice" on the Pākehā medium of television. O'Shea says the aim was "a better understanding. We wanted to listen to what the Māori people said". Tangata Whenua captured interviews with kaumatua from different iwi for posterity, and increased Pākehā understanding of land grievances, including the Tainui-led occupation in Raglan in the 1970s.
Writer Janet Frame (1924 - 2004) is an icon of New Zealand literature; her 'edge of the alphabet' use of language has seen her acclaimed as "one of the great writers of our time" (San Francisco Chronicle). This collection celebrates Frame's life and work on screen, from applauded Vincent Ward and Jane Campion translations to a rare TV interview with Michael Noonan.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.
Jim Moriarty's screen career has ranged from 70s soap Close to Home and Rowley Habib's The Protestors, to starring in mock-doco The Waimate Conspiracy and playing Dad in The Strength of Water. Committed to theatre as a tool for change, he has often worked with troubled youth (eg 2003 documentary Make or Break). Moriarty's directing work includes TV's Mataku, and a stage musical of Once Were Warriors.
Keisha Castle-Hughes found fame at 12, when Whale Rider became an international hit. Her debut performance as spirited Māori girl Pai scored an Oscar nomination. She followed a variety of international roles with local success, including TV show The Almighty Johnsons and acclaim and a Qantas award for telemovie Piece of My Heart. In 2015 she joined the cast of hit series Game of Thrones.
Jemaine Clement is the bespectacled half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, who achieved international cult status in their own HBO series. Clement's screen career began after he appeared on 90s sketch shows Telly Laughs and Skitz. Following his big screen debut in Tongan Ninja, he starred in misfit romance Eagle vs Shark. In 2014 he co-directed and acted in hit vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
Though Michael Heath helped create a run of pioneering examples of the Kiwi cinema of unease, his contributions to our culture defy easy categorisation. His scripts include many films which have made a comfortable home between genres: children’s vampire tale Moonrise/Grampire, nostalgic Ronald Hugh Morrieson chiller The Scarecrow, Heath’s work with director Tony Williams, and his acclaimed song-cycle A Small Life.
Geoff Murphy was a leading figure in the new wave of Kiwi filmmakers that emerged in the 1970s. His movie Goodbye Pork Pie became the first blockbuster of the local film renaissance. He completed an unsurpassed triple punch with Utu and sci-fi classic The Quiet Earth. Noted for his skill at action, knockabout comedy, and melding genres, Murphy spent a decade in Hollywood before returning home.
John Reid made his feature debut with an acclaimed version of hit Roger Hall stage play Middle Age Spread. He went on to direct three more features ranging from raw comedy to moody arthouse pieces — plus documentaries, TV dramas and commercials. Reid has also been head tutor at the New Zealand Film and Television School in Wellington, and written the definitive book on the history of Pacific Films.