In this first episode of the 2015 Māori Television series, three rangitahi answer a Facebook call for sailors who are up for reconnecting with nature and their culture, on a six week waka journey circumnavigating the North Island. The te ao Māori twist on the fish out of water reality show sees a trio of young Māori (including Boy discovery Rickylee Russell-Waipuka) set sail on Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr’s waka Haunui, where they’re separated from social media, face seasickness and rough seas, and learn the "ancient laws of voyaging". The winner gets the chance to join a voyage to Rarotonga.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
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.
This hit animated TV comedy follows the adventures of five kids growing up in the Auckland suburb of Morningside. This rugby-themed episode starts with God praising George Nepia (with Jesus weeping because he’s no good at sports), before heading down to Morningside for a lesson on teamwork. As the Sylvester 1st XV face up against a superstar team which includes Tana Umaga and Stacey Jones, Mack pulls a sicky so that his mates won't find out how little he knows about the game. Michael Jones is the Savages' inspirational coach.
Featuring cameos from numerous softball legends (including the late Kevin Herlihy), Strike Zone is a love-letter to the game from director and NZ under-16 pitcher Cameron Duncan. Duncan stars as a dying coach trying to motivate his team to win a key game. The messages of teamwork and not giving up are made more poignant by the many real-life parallels: during filming torrential rain turned the diamond into a quagmire, and Strike Zone's teen director, himself stricken by cancer, almost died on set, before going on to compere the film's premiere.
Wayne Leonard began his career as a sound operator, but later moved to directing, where he made his name helming sports and live shows that require multiple cameras. Leonard has directed some of the biggest events on television from the Olympic Games and America’s Cup, to Christmas in the Park. He has also produced or directed primetime TV shows This is Your Life, My Kitchen Rules and Game of Two Halves. In 2013 he was part of the team nominated for multiple Emmy awards for coverage of the America’s Cup in San Francisco.
Ido Drent is a model turned actor who first won fans playing Daniel Potts in hit soap Shortland Street. Drent then made his mark in Australia after playing a young therapist in Offspring, and drummer Jon Farriss in 2014 miniseries INXS: Never Tear Us Apart. Drent also portrayed a Gallipoli soldier in Kiwi miniseries When We Go to War.
Bill Sheat has applied his legal and organisational skills across the arts in Aotearoa, to influential effect. He was pivotal in the setting up the NZ Film Commission, and was its inaugural chair from 1978 to 1985. Sheat also spent time as chair of the Queen Elizabeth ll Arts Council, helped fund John O’Shea's 1960s musical Don't Let it Get You, and played a role in ushering Geoff Murphy’s Goodbye Pork Pie to the screen.
There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.