The Russians are Coming

Television, 2011 (Full Length)

This documentary examines an unusual Aotearoa first encounter: between Māori and Russians in 1820, when Queen Charlotte Sound was visited by Fabian Bellingshausen aboard the sloop the Vostok. Alongside reenactments of crew diaries, presenter Moana Maniapoto gets a history lesson from Tipene O'Regan, and visits Russia to look at traded taonga and archive material — and also find out what the famed Antarctic discoverer was doing in Ship Cove shortly after Napoleon was sent packing from Moscow. The doco screened on Māori TV and at Australia's Message Stick Festival.

Antarctic Crossing

Film, 1958 (Full Length)

Kiwi George Lowe directed this Oscar-nominated film of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1955-58), which made the first overland crossing of the continent via the South Pole. Lowe joined mission leader Sir Vivian Fuchs’ party coming from Shackleton Base, spotting hazards for the vehicles and dogs. NFU veteran Derek Wright filmed the Edmund Hillary-led NZ support crew coming from the other side of Antarctica, and helped drive the tractors. Worried about running out of food while waiting for Fuchs to reach the Pole, Hillary and his team headed to the Pole first, against his orders.

Tawhiti

Short Film, 2015 (Full Length)

Inspired by Māori oceanic prowess, Tawhiti follows five Māori astronauts who have returned to Earth after living on Mars for five years. The te reo short film follows the crew of NUKU as they visit their marae. NUKU captain Ruanui (Patara Berryman of Mai Time fame) wants to head back to Mars with his family, but his wife Rongo (Maraea Te Wara) is hōhā (annoyed) — "What kind of Māori are you? This is your home!". Director Tamati Ihaka made the sci-fi short film so Māori could "imagine themselves in a different way", and "reconnect with our explorer heritage."

Loading Docs 2017 - Luckie Strike

Web, 2017 (Full Length)

This Loading Doc short follows cavers Dave Ellacott and Mike Allen on their mission to connect Luckie Strike and Junior Mudball, two vastly different cave systems at Waitomo. Luckie Strike features extraordinary rock formations, waterfalls, and vast caverns. Junior Mudball is as its name suggests, mostly mud. The short sees them at work, galavanting through streams, abseiling down crevasses and scraping through mud — and reflecting on what they love about it. Luckie Strike was picked by National Geographic for its Short Film Showcase. A longer version is in the works.

Kupe - Voyaging by the Stars

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

According to Māori legend Aotearoa was found by the explorer Kupe, chasing an octopus from Ra'iatea, Tahiti. This documentary follows Northland building contractor Hekenukumai 'Hector' Busby, as he leads the construction of a waka hourua (double-hulled canoe), then retraces Kupe's course across the Pacific, back to Rarotonga. Busby first heads to Tahiti to learn navigation methods used by Polynesia's great ocean voyagers, then returns home to fell a kauri and begin building Te Aurere. Busby would go on to build at least another 20 waka; he passed away in May 2019.

The Beginner’s Guide to Prisons

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Broadcaster Ian Johnstone was an intrepid explorer for TVNZ's 80s Beginner's Guide documentary series; the series embedded personal guides to lift the veil on everything from marae protocol to the Freemasons. This edition sees a crime (embezzlement of TVNZ money) pinned to 47-year-old Johnstone by the CIB and so begins his (fictional) experience of judicial process and imprisonment. A humbled Johnstone aims to convey what life behind bars is like, and bust some myths en route, from "they only serve half their time don’t they?" to "it's like a four star hotel".

The Game of Our Lives - Home and Away

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

This four-part series explores New Zealand social history through rugby, from the first rugby club in 1870 to the 1995 World Cup. In this episode commentators muse on the roots of rugby in a settler society, in "a man's country". Rugby's unique connection with Māori, from Tom Ellison and the Natives’ tour to a Te Aute College haka, is explored; as well as the national identity-defining 1905 Originals’ tour, and the relationship between footy and the battlefield. As the Finlay Macdonald-penned narration reflects: “Maybe it's just a game, but it's the game of our lives”.

Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant, James Cook

Short Film, 1970 (Full Length)

One of the last films made by Jeremy Sykes before his death in the Antarctic in a helicopter accident, this NFU short commemorates the 1969 Cook bicentennial. It traces Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand and his charting of the coastline. Contemporary illustrations and dramatic camerawork are used to follow his six-month journey around Aotearoa. It also highlights Cook's navigational skills as he sailed the Endeavour, home to 94 men, two greyhounds and a goat, through uncharted waters, helping earn him his reputation as "explorer extraordinary and servant of the King".

Our People Our Century - Being Kiwi

Television, 2000 (Excerpts)

This episode of the six-part Our People, Our Century series explores the mix of cultures that Aotearoa-New Zealand has become. In these excerpts, a Chinese Kiwi family speaks of the racism they experienced, from the poll tax of the 1890s to their relative isolation — despite living in downtown Wellington. Artist Trevor Moffitt describes his father's “heavy silent disapproval” at his artwork; Moffitt went on receive acclaim for paintings that explore themes of New Zealand identity. Finally, mixed marriages between Māori and Pākehā shed some light on biculturalism.

Emperors of Antarctica

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

This film tells the story of Antarctica’s emperor penguin (the inspiration behind Happy Feet) and how they survive vicious blizzards and -50°C temperatures. It also retraces the epic “worst journey in the world” which explorer Edward Wilson made to discover these remarkable birds. Max Quinn won a best director award at the 1994 NZ Television Awards for the Antarctic Trilogy Emperors was part of. The trilogy helped establish NHNZ’s relationship with Discovery Channel. As this backgrounder explains, the scene of a penguin falling through ice (clip one) became a YouTube hit.