At the age of eight, filmmaker Robyn Paterson (white) and her best friend Mercy (black) greeted Comrade Robert Mugabe with flowers at a Zimbabwe air-force base. They became poster children of the new Zimbabwe. But the country was soon to descend into turmoil under Mugabe’s rule, and Paterson’s family was forced to flee to New Zealand. This documentary traces Paterson’s return to her birthplace a generation later, and a high-risk undercover search to find the fate of her childhood friend. Mercy won Paterson the Best Emerging Director Award at 2013 DocEdge Festival.
Hokonui Todd is a portrait of African statesman Sir Garfield Todd (1908 - 2002). Todd was an outspoken supporter of black right to self determination in Rhodesia (which became Zimbabwe in 1980, after a bloody civil war). Here Todd and wife Gracie reflect on their lives: from their "egalitarian" New Zealand upbringing; their arrival in Rhodesia as missionary farmers; Todd's time as Prime Minister; being imprisoned by Ian Smith's racist white regime (along with daughter Judith); to emerging as a "conscience of the country" burdened with postcolonial troubles.
Hastings-bred former All Black Josh Kronfeld returns to the 'fruitbowl' of New Zealand to meet immigrants, in this series celebrating diversity. Adversity and sadness are key themes in this episode; an Indian "untouchable" caste family face being separated, after the parents overstayed, while Bosnian rapper Genocide draws on his war-ravaged childhood for inspiration. On a lighter note, Zimbawee-born Sandy Densem creates art using a mollusc shell design popular in her home country, and a South African family keeps tradition alive by making and selling boerewors (sausages) at markets.
'Azania' is an impassioned anti-apartheid song written for the Auckland reggae band by law student Ross France. Led by original Herbs vocalist Toni Fonoti, it helped to establish the band’s political credentials at a time when New Zealand was split by the 1981 Springbok Tour. Azania was the name given to a post-revolutionary South Africa by the Pan African Congress. There are name checks for black African leaders Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela; and the chant “Angola! Mozambique! Zimbabwe! Azania!” was quickly incorporated into anti-tour protest marches.
Intrepid cinematographer Jacob Bryant has shot everywhere from Iraq and Afghanistan to the mean streets of Auckland (Super City). His work with leading documentary makers has been nominated for multiple screen awards. An episode of TV show Ends of the Earth shot in Afghanistan won Bryant a 2007 Qantas Award; he also shared a Documentary Edge gong for filming Finding Mercy in Zimbabwe.
Cinematographer Graeme Cowley created the moody imagery for classic movies Utu and Smash Palace. Elsewhere he played another vital role in the Kiwi film renaissance, by establishing camera equipment hire company Film Facilities, alongside the late Nigel Hutchinson. Cowley went on to produce black comedy Carry Me Back, and work on the restoration of Utu.
Robyn Paterson won attention in 2012 for directing award-winning film Finding Mercy, in which she headed back to her Zimbabwe birthplace to find a best friend from childhood. Feature documentary In the Zone followed in 2018, which explored a man's efforts to transform educational outcomes for disadvantaged youth in Auckland and Chicago. Paterson has worked in numerous roles: from directing factual TV shows (Grand Designs, Attitude) to writing (The Simon Eliot Show, Facelift) and casting. She has also faced the camera as a Queer Nation presenter and occasional actor, and is a published author.
Canadian-born New Zealand director Leanne Pooley has won a raft of awards for her work as a documentary filmmaker. The 2011 Arts Laureate's films include hit Topp Twins movie Untouchable Girls, 3D Everest first ascent saga Beyond the Edge, and euthanasia exploration The Promise. In 2015 her film 25 April, an animated feature about Gallipoli, was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.