This Artsville TV documentary plucks its way through a Kiwi-focused history of the ukulele, from Waikiki to Wellington, using the dream of “godfather of Polynesian music” Bill Sevesi as its starting point: namely “that the children would be playing the ukulele all over the country.” Presenter Gemma Gracewood (of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra) reveals the instrument’s Pacific adoption and burgeoning popularity, and meets acolytes of ‘the uke’: from Herman Pi’ikea Clark to Jennifer Ward-Lealand, to Sevesi strumming with onetime pupil Sione Aleki.
Following the demise of The Mint Chicks in 2010, lead singer Kody Nielson worked with Bic Runga, played in his brother Ruban's new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra and started his own solo project. Utilising influences ranging from jazz, lounge and Pacifica to 60s pop and psychedelica, he wrote and performed most of the material himself (with occasional contributions from Runga and his father Chris). He christened the project Opossom; album Electric Hawaii won Best Alternative Album at the 2012 NZ Music Awards.
Taro planter Lui’s grief for his dead wife is blighting his life and crops. A widow, Malia, is bound by anger to the grave of her abusive husband, as the rising sea slowly drowns it. When Lui and Malia meet by chance, he’s provided with a path from his hurt. Filmed in Samoan on the island of Upolu, and directed by Samoan-born Tusi Tamasese, the short is a fable-like meditation on communion, cooking and sacred places. It was selected for the Clermont-Ferrand and Hawaii film festivals, and was the precursor to Tamasese’s Venice-selected debut feature, The Orator.
In this 2012 short film, young Samoan Kiwi Suni (Beulah Koale) has to choose between his family — and its traditional values — and gang life. His wayward cousin pressures him towards the gang. Ōtara actor Koale had a breakout role in short film Manurewa (2010), and would go on to star in feature The Last Saint, before winning roles in America (Hawaii Five-O). Suni Man was directed, written and produced by Hamish Mortland, inspired by a true story he heard from a schoolmate. The film screened as an education resource in South Auckland community centres.
This 1976 concert sees Kiwi entertainment great John Rowles bring his cabaret show to His Majesty's Theatre in Auckland. Back from a hotel residency in Hawaii, Rowles belts out the ballads in his booming baritone. Tanned, in pastel blue flares, wide lapels, and plenty of bling, Rowles (here nearly 30) croons about wahine from Mandy to Sweet Caroline, to his iconic "island sweetheart" Cheryl Moana Marie. Memorable moments include tributes to Norman Kirk and singer Inia Te Wiata, a haka with Dave from Palmerston North, and a rousing finish with 'Mr Bojangles'.
Amadi is a Rwandan refugee struggling with his new life in New Zealand. Alone, patronised in his menial job (he’s called “Africa” by a workmate), and anxious about rescuing his family from his war-torn ‘home’; he forms an unlikely connection with the prickly lady living next door. Directed by 2009 Spada New Filmmaker of the Year, Zia Mandviwalla, Amadi joined Eating Sausage, Clean Linen, and Cannes-selected Night Shift to form a quartet of Mandviwalla-made shorts exploring cross-cultural collision. It screened at Melbourne and Hawaii international film festivals.
By 1978 UK chart success and an extended club residence in Hawaii were behind John Rowles; he was broke and looking for a hit. His earlier smash 'Cheryl Moana Marie' had been named after two of his sisters. For his comeback Rowles reprised the gesture, penning a song to sister Tania. The single topped the New Zealand charts for four weeks. This clip sees him donning a green suit to mime 'Tania' for local music show Ready to Roll. His 1978 album This is My Life did well on both sides of the Tasman, priming a 20 year stint in Australia performing on the Leagues club circuit.
Peter Rowley was in his early 20s when David McPhail asked him to audition for new comedy show A Week of It. Rowley talks in this Funny As interview about his long career, performing with Billy T James, and other subjects, including: Working as a stage manager at Christchurch's Court Theatre, before getting his break on A Week of It in 1977 — "It was just sensational, and it was groundbreaking" First meeting Billy T James in a corridor, and clicking with him straight away Giving up stand-up comedy in Australia to write and act in The Billy T James Show, and moving into Billy's house to write the series Hanging out of a helicopter for The Billy T James Show, and having "the most fun a guy could ever have" on accidents will happen comedy Letter to Blanchy Being a "bit difficult" while co-starring on comedy Pete and Pio in the 1990s Wearing an $8,000 wig for 2018 movie Mortal Engines (in which he played a slave trader) Note: For more on Billy T, check out this Funny As interview with Rowley and Billy T's former minder Rick Harris.
Numero Bruno is a warts and all biography of widely popular actor, musician and counter-cultural hero Bruno Lawrence. Lawrence's intense, charismatic screen presence was key to ground-breaking Kiwi films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Directed by Steve La Hood (the veteran director’s TV swansong), this documentary features interviews with family and friends, and liberal excerpts from Lawrence's film and musical work, including performances by 70s alternative Aotearoa icons Blerta and clips showcasing his seminal collaborations with Geoff Murphy.
Attitude is a weekly series that addresses the issues and interests of people living with a disability. The high energy series launched in 2008, with a strong thread of advocacy journalism. Attitude has a number of team members who themselves have a disability, including all the onscreen researcher/reporters. Much of Attitude's content has been loaded onto online hub Attitude Live, which launched in 2013 and later beat 86 countries to win a World Summit Award in the 'inclusion and empowerment' category — plus praise for digital innovation.