Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
Taika Waititi [Te-Whānau-a-Apanui] acted in movies Scarfies and Snakeskin, TV show The Strip (sometimes under the credit Taika Cohen), and appeared on stage as a stand-up comedian. Turning his creative energies towards directing, he made Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night, and Tama Tū, based on the experiences of The Māori Battalion in WWII. He has gone on to great success directing (and sometimes appearing in) feature films.
Peter Meteherangi Tikao Burger (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitane) can thank a childhood lisp for his busy career as a screen director today. Having been sent to speech lessons, he found himself in the wrong class, and discovered the joys of performance in a drama class at a young and impressionable age. Since then, Burger has directed numerous film and television productions, including Until Proven Innocent, which won five Qantas awards in 2009, The Tattooist, Fish Skin Suit, short film Turangawaewae, staring the late Wi Kuki Kaa, as well as the TV series Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls and The Cult.
This final episode from series two of the arts series is presented by Taika Cohen (aka Taika Waititi) and his alter ego, silly German Gunter Schliemann. Taika makes short film Tama Tū, performs as vampire Diego (later reborn in What We Do in the Shadows) and performs Taika’s Incredible Show at Bats Theatre. Included are scenes from his early, little-seen short film John & Pogo. Also featured are artist Siren Maclaine (aka Siren Deluxe) and her feminist erotica; Caroline Robinson’s large-scale Auckland motorway sculptures; and comics artist Colin Wilson (Judge Dredd, Blueberry).
Tammy Davis (Ngāti Rangi, Atihaunui a Paparangi) grew up in Raetihi, and studied acting at Northland Polytechnic before landing his first major role (alongside fellow graduate Clint Eruera) as Mookie in the feature film What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Following supporting roles in Whale Rider, and TV dramas Jacksons Wharf, The Market and Mataku, Davis starred in macabre feature Black Sheep, and Taika Waititi short film Tama Tū, before securing the role of Munter in long-running TV series Outrageous Fortune. Davis won Best Performance by a Supporting Actor at the 2008 Qantas Film and Television Awards for his role as Munter.
Ainsley Gardiner (Te-Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Awa) fell in love with the magic of the big screen while growing up in Whakatane, where you could find her most Fridays at the local cinema catching the latest release. Her first formal foray into film and television came in 1995 when she joined producer Larry Parr at Kahukura Productions, eventually producing low budget feature Kombi Nation (2003) and co-producing the 26-part comedy/drama TV series Love Bites (2002). Following the demise of Kahukura, Gardiner teamed up with Taika Waititi to work on Oscar-nominated short film Two Cars, One Night. Soon after that she established Whenua Films with actor/producer Cliff Curtis. Together the trio struck creative gold with World War II short Tama Tū, Waititi's debut feature Eagle vs Shark and box office hit Boy.
Taika (Boy) Waititi's first feature is an offbeat comedy about two lonely misfits and their attempts to find love. Lily (Loren Taylor) is a shy fast-food cashier with a crush on clueless gaming geek Jarrod (Conchord Jemaine Clement). When Lily crashes Jarrod's fancy dress party wearing a shark costume and impresses the self-styled ‘Eagle Lord' with her gaming prowess — excerpted here — she gets her man. But their budding romance is sorely tested by Jarrod's obsession with a childhood nemesis. Empire called the film, "a comic delight destined for cult adoration."
Sometime actor Taika Waititi has clearly sunk his teeth into directing. His 2005 short film Two Cars, One Night was Oscar-nominated. Second feature Boy (2010) became the most successful Kiwi film released on its home soil — at least until the arrival of Waititi's fourth movie, Barry Crump inspired adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. In 2017 Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok became an international hit.
Jarod Rawiri has played everyone from a sensitive nice guy (in his first big feature role, 2007‘s Jinx Sister) to Hōne Heke — his performance as the Ngāpuhi chief in TV's Waitangi: What Really Happened was nominated for a 2011 Aotearoa TV Award. Having acted in two short films for director Michael Bennett, the Toi Whakaari acting graduate went on to join ensemble drama Matariki, Bennett’s first movie. Rawiri played a grieving brother. He has also acted in quake series Hope and Wire, and was one of the soldiers in award-winning Taika Waititi short Tama Tū. In 2015 he joined soap Shortland Street, as Dad Mo Hannah.
Hawke's Bay teen Taungaroa Emile had only acted in school plays before making an award-winning screen debut in 1994's Once Were Warriors: as shy but rebellious teenager Boogie Heke. Emile reprised the role in the 1999 sequel. He has also starred as a teenage ex-con in cross-cultural romance Flight of the Albatross, and had roles in No 2, Shortland Street, tele-movie Tangiwai, and award-winning short Tama Tū.