Tattooing — "The world's oldest skin game" — is the subject of this documentary made by Geoff Steven who scored a major coup when he obtained the services of Peter Fonda as his presenter. Shot in NZ, Samoa, Japan and the United States, it traces the history of tattooing from Ancient Egypt through its tribal importance in the Pacific, to a counter culture renaissance that began in the 1960s. Leading practitioners (including superstar Ed Hardy) are interviewed and observed at work, while their clients wince their way towards becoming living canvasses.
When traumatised soldier Matiu returns from service overseas, he struggles to reconnect with his wife and children. In this episode of te reo series Aroha, the marriage between Matiu (Te Kauri Wihongi) and Wai (Rena Owen) mirrors the Māori legend of Niwareka and Mataora, a union between spiritual and earthly worlds. Matiu decides to seek out his ghosts; he symbolises his reunion with his family through a facial tā moko performed by his father-in-law (Wi Kuki Kaa). Mataroa was written by Aroha co-creator Karen Sidney. It won an award at Canadian festival ImagineNATIVE.
This documentary looks at the art of traditional Samoan tattooing, or pe'a, based around interviews with nine men who have the tattoos (which cover the lower back and upper legs). The film goes to Samoa to discover the history of tatau, and also interviews New Zealand-based Samoans with pe'a. They talk about the cultural significance of the tattooing, what it means to them, and about dealing with the pain of the long tattooing process, as well as the recovery period afterwards. The documentary screened at the 2002 NZ International Film Festival.
Tattoo artist Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr, American star of Roswell) travels the world looking for ethnic designs to exploit for his art. At a tattoo expo in Singapore, he is introduced to the traditional Samoan tattoo, and falls for Sina (No. 2's Mia Blake) the beautiful cousin of tattooist Alipati. When Jake recklessly steals a Samoan tattooing tool, he unwittingly unleashes a powerful spirit that endangers everyone he touches. This inaugural Kiwi-Singaporean co-production was directed by Peter Burger and produced by Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors).
Tā Moko is a half hour documentary on Māori tattoo, including rare footage of internationally acclaimed Māori artist George Nuku getting a full-face moko via traditional tattooing techniques. The documentary follows the journey of Tā Moko from its use and status in traditional Māori culture, to its appropriation as gang insignia, and its revival as an expression of Māori identity and pride in the modern world. Directed by Kim Webby, Tā Moko screened on TVNZ, and was a finalist at the 2007 NZ Media Peace Awards.
Tony Fomison, one of NZ’s leading painters, is profiled in this 1981 episode of a series about notable artists, made for TVNZ. Interviewed by Hamish Keith, Fomison is an engaging but diffident subject — describing his often dark, brooding works as “illustrations of dreams”, but also ascribing human emotions to them. His powerful attraction to Pacific cultures is explored; it culminated in this Pākehā son of a working-class Christchurch family getting a pe’a (the traditional Samoan body tattoo). Tony Fomison died in 1990.
This 2016 Loading Doc introduces a heavily-tattoed Englishman living in Rarotonga. Croc Coulter is an unlikely master of the traditional art of tātatau (tattoo); the documentary follows Coulter as he teaches the art form to an apprentice, Moko Smith. Coulter also lives with cystic fibrosis. It was directed by Robert George, who has Cook Islands Māori and Māori heritage, and a background as both a painter and in post-production work for the screen. The mini documentary was shared internationally; it also featured on National Geographic's Short Film Showcase.
Lisa Taouma has a laufala bag spilling over with Pasifika screen credits. She has directed on Tagata Pasifika, helmed TV2’s Polyfest and made documentaries on subjects from Samoan tattoo to fa’afafine. She produces pioneering PI youth show Fresh with Mario Gaoa, and in 2014 launched Polynesian online community Coconet. Taouma also wrote short films Brown Sugar and Talk of the Town.
Actor, writer and director Rawiri Paratene, ONZM, first sprang into the public eye on the iconic Play School and comedy shows like Joe and Koro. In 1999 he played gangmember Mulla Rota in the sequel to Once Were Warriors, and four years later was seen around the globe as the stubborn grandfather in Whale Rider. In 2010 he won further acclaim after starring in movie The Insatiable Moon.