Tusi Tamasese’s first feature tells the story of a taro farmer (real life farmer Fa’afiaula Sagote) who finds the courage to stand tall for his family and culture, and stand up to sceptical villagers. Variety called it “compelling drama”. Though previous films (eg. Flying Fox on a Freedom Tree) have told stories inspired by Samoan writers, The Orator is the first feature written and directed by a Samoan, and the first filmed in Samoan. In its debut at the prestigious Venice Film Festival it won a special jury mention in the Orizzonti (New Horizons) section.
In director Grant Lahood's 2013 Tropfest NZ entry a young boy takes Kiwi ingenuity to the next level by creatively adapting his gumboots to net sporting victory. But it’s a risky move. Sprung marks a return for Lahood to his dialogue free short film beginnings (eg. Cannes award-winner The Singing Trophy, and his debut Snail’s Pace). Like those shorts, Sprung has a devilish sense of humour, and a crisply edited contest of wills. The ode to the courage of the young and the unpredictability of science was scored by veteran film and TV composers Plan 9.
This music video features Satellite Spies as the headline band at a high school ball. Unusually for a local music video made in the 80s, it features a scene-setting intro sequence before the song begins: amidst the excited throngs, a boy struggles to work up the courage to ask his crush for a dance. The second single off the band's debut LP Destiny In Motion, 'I Wish I'd Asked' failed to chart, despite the band agreeing it was the standout song. After hearing the track, Mark Knopfler gave Satellite Spies the nod to support Dire Straits when they played in New Zealand in 1986.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".
This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at Vincent Ward's first two features, Vigil and The Navigator. The director talks about the madness of the Cannes Film Festival, echoes Jack Nicholson's view that women are "a lot smarter than men", and explains why a nuclear sub turns up in The Navigator. He visits his parent's Wairarapa farm, where they remember him as a straightforward and easygoing child. Fiona Kay provides unsparing memories of starring in Vigil as a child, and the film's co-writer Graeme Tetley admires Ward's courage in tackling "big issues" like guilt and betrayal.
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.
In Samoan-born director Sima Urale's first feature, two mothers from very different Aotearoa cultures find the courage to confront the secrets of the past, in order to set their sons free. Hard-working Lorna runs an old-fashioned cake shop and lives with her unemployed son. For Anita, star of an Indian cooking show, things come to a head when her son decides to meet her estranged sister Tara, who runs a no-frills curry house. Apron Strings debuted in the Discovery Section of the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. It won four Qantas awards, including for actors Jennifer Ludlam and Scott Wills.
Half a decade before the electronic beats of Oceania, Hinewehi Mohi's debut single is a gentler, more soulful affair — with the constantly moving close-ups of director Niki Caro's video underlining the song’s heartfelt simplicity. Co-written with Doctor Hone Kaa and Ardijah founding member Jay Dee, the song pushes the importance of rising above adversity, and having the courage to evolve as a people and a nation. The latter would be challenged seven years later by another te reo performance from Mohi — of the national anthem at a rugby test match.
Journalist turned media trainer Allison Webber began in television at a time when women were more likely to be making the tea than making programmes. After working alongside names like Brian Edwards and Ian Johnstone, she became part of a new generation of women producers and directors who changed the shape of what went on air, especially with her ground-breaking documentary series Expressions of Sexuality.
Tom Finlayson is a producer, director and writer who has an impressive track record in New Zealand television. He began his TV career as a reporter on Town and Around, but quickly moved on to news producing, and eventually TV drama production. Finlayson produced the highly acclaimed kidult show Under the Mountain and the successful police drama Mortimer’s Patch, as well as the films Other Halves and The Grasscutter.