In this Good Day interview, Alison Parr talks to Sir Edmund Hillary as he discusses From the Ocean to the Sky, a book about his 1977 jet boat mission up India's holy river, The Ganges. A reflective Sir Ed talks adventure, spirituality and his 'escapist' relationship with Nepal; and Parr probes him on his reluctance to include single women on expeditions. On a more outspoken note, he expresses his dismay at a lack of "positive, inspirational leadership" in contemporary NZ in what is arguably a barely disguised attack on the style of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon.
Before turning to directing, Barry Barclay did more than five years training to become a priest. That experience surely percolates through his film Ashes, with its reflections on identity, spirituality and living (or feeling) apart from others. The film centres on the thoughts of four people: an artist, a woman struggling with her identity as a high achiever, an actor, and a priest. Are all of them acting, or only Sam Neill? The film features readings from Ash Wednesday, the poem written by TS Eliot after converting to anglicanism. Ashes screened on NZ television on 17 March 1975.
Ethical entrepreneur, medical pioneer and inaugural New Zealander of the Year, Sir Ray Avery traverses his life, work and beliefs in this episode from a TV One documentary series about spirituality. English-born Avery is a passionate and entertaining raconteur as he recounts his “overnight success story” which took 18 years and saw him overcome a childhood of neglect and abuse. His highly successful company has no permanent employees but has touched hundreds of thousands of lives with low cost, life saving medical devices manufactured in developing nations.
Presenter Chris Nichol explored the spirituality of New Zealanders in this interview based documentary series. It ran for five years and was intended to broaden TV One’s religious programming to reflect a growing diversity of faiths and philosophical approaches to life (from conventional religions through to a Wiccan, a rationalist and an atheist). Each episode examined the life and beliefs of one person. Interviewees included Sir Ray Avery, Gareth Morgan, Wynton Rufer, Moana Maniapoto, Joy Cowley, Nandor Tanczos, Ahmed Zaoui and Ilona Rogers.
The Insatiable Moon is the tale of a man with nothing but wisdom, joy and possibly a direct line to God. Arthur (Rawiri Paratene) wanders the streets of Ponsonby, where he finds perfection (Sara Wiseman) just as his community of boarding house friends faces threat. Producer Mike Riddell first wrote The Insatiable Moon as a 1997 novel, inspired by people he met while he was a clergyman in Ponsonby. The film’s extended development almost saw it made in England with Timothy Spall - before finally coming home, “on half a shoestring and a heap of passion”.
Filmmaker Stewart Main traverses India seeking enlightenment. There he meets ex-pat Kiwis who seem to have found it, which only leaves him feeling trapped in a life of the senses. Especially when he falls for his Indian sound recordist, Sreenu. Or so he would have us think. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art documentary slot, Main's startling, provocative film explores the cracks between the divine and the sensual, documentary and fiction. Director Andrew Bancroft writes about the result in this backgrounder.
After kicking off with 'Poi-E' and the opening of landmark exhibition Te Māori in New York, this documentary sets out to summarise the key elements of Māori culture and history in a single hour. Narrator Don Selwyn ranges across past and (mid 80s) present: from early Māori settlement and moa-hunting, to the role of carvings in "telling countless stories". There are visits to Rotorua's Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and a Sonny Waru-led course aimed at getting youth in touch with their Māoritanga. The interviews include Napi Waaka and the late Sir James Hēnare.
With each chilling tale "of the unexplained and unexpected" introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style, Mataku was described as a Māori Twilight Zone. The award-winning bilingual series explored dramatic tales steeped in the supernatural world of Māori. Mataku was produced by Māori writers, directors and actors; and was a strong international and domestic success. Tension mounts in the excerpt from episode nine from the second series: when a group of old mates reunite to go fishing one of them has a long-kept secret, and terror lurks in the deep.
Released in Kiwi cinemas in mid 2009, The Strength of Water marked the big screen debut of Māori playwright Briar Grace-Smith and Pākehā director Armagan Ballantyne. The drama centres on a 10-year-old twin brother and sister living in an isolated part of the Hokianga, and the events that follow when they encounter a young stranger. The Kiwi-German co-production was invited to film festivals in Berlin and Sydney, after debuting in Rotterdam. The extras include interviews with Grace-Smith and the four main cast members, plus making of footage.
Screening in primetime at 6pm, People Like Us was built around exploring the spiritual and emotional aspects of people’s lives. Subjects ranged from interviews with leaders — religious and otherwise — to live events and the Red Cross. Mini seasons within the series were devoted to everything from menopause and breaking up, to cultural diversity (the latter fuelling a book as well). Producer Allison Webber managed to win funding from outside of state TV for some of these specials, and the show shared resources on occasion with RNZ’s former Continuing Education Unit.