Paolo Rotondo was born in Italy and has lived there and in New Zealand. In 1997 Rotondo starred in local feature The Ugly winning praise from Variety and The Times, and awards at Rome's Fantastic Film Festival. Following TV appearances in Street Legal and Jackson’s Wharf, he went on to star in urban underbelly feature Stickmen, before writing and directing short film The Freezer. Rotondo returned to the small screen as Dr Andrew Solomon in Kiwi soap Shortland Street, and also appeared as Tim in The Insiders Guide to Happiness. His work as director and writer of Dead Letters won him Best Short Screenplay at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.
This episode from the TV3 series of mini World War I stories looks at Harold Gillies and Henry Pickerill, two pioneers of plastic surgery who grafted “new hope onto despair” for soldiers whose faces had been demolished by war. The short details new methods the pair developed at Sidcup in England, a specialist unit set up by Gilles. It conveys the bravery of the surgeons and nurses in the face of appalling injuries, as well as the courage and “unquenchable optimism” of the patients. Presented by Hilary Barry, Great War Stories screened during 3 News.
The trenches of World War I represented warfare on a new scale and produced facial wounds in numbers never seen before. This Top Shelf doco examines the legacy of Sir Harold Gillies and Henry Pickerill — NZ surgeons who founded modern reconstructive plastic surgery while treating these injuries — and of Sir Archibald McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem who continued this work during World War II. This excerpt focuses on Gillies and Pickerill, and the rediscovery of the remarkable surgical models, and watercolour paintings of their patients, they used as teaching aids.
In this Attitude episode, 14-year-old Sean Prendeville faces up to a complex and radical surgery: rotationplasty. For the bone cancer survivor the operation involves attaching his lower leg to the hip joint, rotating it and using the ankle as a ‘hinge’ for a prosthetic limb. The programme tracks the nature-mad Sean’s journey, from pre-surgery anxiety to rehab on his backwards right foot/knee; and the things that helped him through: his blue tongue lizard, challenge beads, Mum and family, and design student Jessica Quinn (who underwent the procedure when she was younger).
Former pro wrestler Wilbur McDougall was battling addiction and self-imposed isolation before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery. For this serio-comic documentary, he let university mate J Ollie Lucks film his journey of transformation. McDougall needs a new wrestling persona — and the "happiness and self-acceptance that has eluded him for so long". Will his friendship with Lucks survive, as the filmmaker jumps at the story from the top rope? Lucks and Julia Parnell's feature began in 2015 as a short film for Loading Docs. The long version debuted at 2017's Doc Edge Festival.
This award-winning Attitude episode follows an ‘early onset’ sufferer of Parkinson’s disease — 48-year-old Auckland marketing consultant Andy McDowell. McDowell narrates as he struggles with the effects of the degenerative neurological condition on his relationship with his wife, family, and career. The episode includes a visual poem made to communicate his condition to his two young daughters, and an Outward Bound stint. McDowell hopes to qualify for Deep Brain Stimulation — a risky ‘bionic’ surgery that may help his co-ordination and uncontrolled movements.
This is the third documentary made about the remarkable life of Shelly West (Michelle Belesarius) who was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis as a child and blind since she was 20. After giving birth against medical odds, Shelley, and husband Dion, bring their new daughter Michela home; but they find parenting fraught with money worries and, for Shelly, the ongoing challenge of bonding with her daughter. To augment their finances, she writes a book and takes up public speaking — but a steadily weakening heart requires potentially life threatening surgery.
For their fourth series, the intrepid Moon TV crew set out to tour New Zealand in mobile broadcast vans. The backbone of this episode is a roadside interview with All Black Richie McCaw, who takes in stride a dodgy satellite dish and questions from a viewer about swallowing the contents of a lava lamp. Elsewhere there are appearances by show regulars Hamsterman (who does a strange dance) and Speedo Cops (dealing to a dangerous runaway trolley) — plus a Dragon's Den take-off, in which a potential financier is impressed by a vacuum cleaner refitted to make coffee.
Written by Fiona Samuel, Face Value was a trilogy of monologues by three women with different stories to tell but who all share a quest for inner happiness. Ginette McDonald plays Steph, the pampered wife of a wealthy advertising executive in Her New Life. The action centres on Steph’s preparations for a friend’s daughter’s wedding while her husband is away on a business trip. The script cleverly subverts viewer expectations; and McDonald's performance delivers a fair dose of pathos from it. Her New Life was a finalist at the Banff and New York TV Festivals.
This tale of body-snatching botanical aliens invading 70s Wellington shared the 1973 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Dominated by Davina Whitehouse’s performance as a retired teacher-turned ET foster parent, it included early TV roles for Paul Holmes, Grant Tilly and Susan Wilson. Vincent Ley’s script won a Ngaio Marsh teleplay contest, and its realisation stylishly traverses local summertime environs — Silence was one of the first NZBC dramas filmed in colour. Director David Stevens went on to success in Australia (writing Breaker Morant, and The Sum of Us).