Series

Epidemic

Television, 1976

Keith Aberdein devised Epidemic after being given the brief to write a drama about “disease coming into New Zealand”. Set in a small North Island town where race relations are strained to breaking point, this four part virus outbreak thriller revolves around Māori tāpū and an archaeological dig which locals are worried will disturb the graves of their ancestors. An accomplished cast (Martyn Sanderson, Don Selwyn, Cathy Downes) helped the series break bicultural-themed TV drama ground as European education and culture, and Māori tradition and spirituality collide.

Epidemic - Hemi Te Koaka (First Episode)

Television, 1976 (Full Length Episode)

Part one of a four part thriller written by Keith Aberdein. In a small North Island town, a mysterious unmarked grave is believed to hold the remains of a tohunga who died ridding his people of a deadly epidemic. Now, an archaeological dig might be getting too close to that grave. A visiting doctor (Cathy Downes) arrives in town to find the locals in a state of agitation; the archaelogist (Martyn Sanderson) full of good intentions, but unaware of where his actions could lead; and relations between Māori and Pakeha strained as two cultures struggle to co-exist.

Syn City - New Zealand's Deadly Synthetic Drugs Epidemic

Web, 2018 (Full Length Episode)

In 2013 the Psychoactive Substances Act became law in Aotearoa, effectively outlawing synthetic cannabinoids. This Vice documentary looks at how they continue to affect West Auckland — where people are still addicted, but the drugs are now on the black market. Tammara shares her experiences of trying to get clean, and dealing with treatment services. Her father rues the impact of synthetics on her life, and emergency responders add their views. Meanwhile ex user Trey talks about those he’s lost. In 2017 deaths linked to synthetic drug use showed a major spike in New Zealand.

Exhuming Adams

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

Exhuming Adams investigates the mysterious disappearance of a species of New Zealand mistletoe plant, 50 years ago. Set among dusty museum collections, high-tech labs, and remote bush, this documentary is a natural history CSI. A canny forensic investigation, taking in preserved bellbird skins, last witnesses and CGI modelling, reveals the chain of events leading to the unique plant's extinction, and a surprising culprit. Directors Brant Backlund and Thassilo Franke won the BBC Best Newcomer Award at the prestigious British film festival Wildscreen in 2006.

Heartland - The Catlins

Television, 1996 (Excerpts)

Heartland host Gary McCormick hunkers down in the Catlins ("New Zealand the way it used to be"), the wild southern coast stretching between Invercargill and Balclutha. After watching the action at school sports day, he discovers a rural community revolving around family, church and pub. Interviewees include a Metallica-loving teenager who has just bought his second car, for cruising; and spoon collector Kitty 'Granny' Burgess. He also visits a rugged Long Point farm to check out rare yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), who look very punk during moulting season.

Kaleidoscope - Ngati

Television, 1987 (Excerpts)

This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at pioneering Māori feature film Ngāti. There are interviews with director Barry Barclay, screenwriter Tama Poata, producer John O’Shea and actor Wi Kuki Kaa – who discuss the film’s kaupapa – and a visit to its premiere at Waipiro Bay Marae on the East Coast (where the film was shot). Barclay’s first dramatic feature, Ngāti also marked the first feature film to be written and directed by Māori. Many of the crew were enlisted via a scheme aimed at redressing the lack of young Māori working in the screen industry.

The New Oceania

Television, 2005 (Excerpts)

Shirley Horrocks' documentary profiles the life, work and influence of pioneering PI writer Albert Wendt (1973's Sons for the Return Home was the first novel published in English by a Samoan). The film accompanies the writer to various locations in the Pacific and addresses his Samoa upbringing, his education in New Zealand and his work as writer and teacher; and discusses the contemporary explosion of Pacific arts. "I belong to Oceania — or, at least, I am rooted in a fertile part of it and it nourishes my spirit, helps to define me, and feeds my imagination." 

Pioneer Women - Princess Te Puea

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of Pioneer Women dramatises the life of Waikato leader Te Puea Herangi: from prodigal daughter to leader of the Tainui people. Te Puea helped establish the Kingitanga movement, and led Tainui to prosperity through wars, confiscation of their land, and an influenza epidemic. Future TV3 newsreader Joanna Paul plays Te Puea. Produced by Pamela Meekings-Stewart, the Pioneer Women series screened in a high profile slot on TV One, and challenged the view that white male statesmen were the only noteworthy figures in New Zealand colonial history.

Series

Joe and Koro

Television, 1976–1978

The odd couple is a longtime comic staple. In the 1970s Yorkshire emigre Craig Harrison turned the tale of a Māori and a Yorkshireman into novel Ground Level, a radio play, and this ground-breaking TV series. Joe (Stephen Gledhill) is the nervy, university-educated librarian; his flatmate is Koro (Rawiri Paratene) who works in a fish and chip shop. Running for two series, the popular chalk’n’cheese sitcom was a rare comedy amongst a flowering of bicultural TV stories (The Governor, Epidemic). Harrison’s novel The Quiet Earth later inspired a classic film.

Keith Aberdein

Writer, Actor

Keith Aberdein is probably best known for playing the small-town policeman who arouses Bruno Lawrence's ire, in Kiwi screen classic Smash Palace. But his screen work covers almost every angle: from covering the Wahine disaster as a reporter, to directing, to writing scripts for some of the most ambitious television dramas of the 1970s.