With The Free Man, genre-hopping director Toa Fraser (The Dead Lands) takes on the world of extreme sport. The globetrotting documentary is built around encounters between Kiwi freestyle skier Jossi Wells and The Flying Frenchies, known for their base jumps, wingsuit flying and tightrope walks at terrifying heights. As Wells gets direct experience in the art of walking a highline, director Fraser investigates what adrenaline junkies gain — and lose — when putting their lives on the line. The Free Man got its Kiwi premiere during the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
This 2015 Loading Docs short follows Tihei Harawira as he freestyle raps at Otara Markets. Diagnosed with autism and dyslexia as a child, Harawira didn’t ‘fit’ and was the victim of bullying. But an appreciative audience at the flea markets — where he busks ad hoc rhymes set to a beat box — have enabled Tihei to find his voice. ‘Tihei’ means “the breath of life”, a name he was given by an aunty after being resuscitated at birth. Tihei was directed by Hamish Bennett and produced by Orlando Stewart, the team behind 2014 NZ Film Festival award-winner Ross & Beth.
This short documentary about freestyle skiing was directed for the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department by Sam Neill (who would shortly achieve fame as an actor). This was one of several docos directed by Neill while at the National Film Unit; other subjects included the Red Mole theatre troupe and architect Ian Athfield. The skiers put on daring displays of their 'art' in locations including Mount Hutt, Queenstown and Tongariro National Park. 70s snow-styles (and beards) abound. The film was translated into French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish.
Fronted by Paul Holmes, this doco looks at the New Zealand Paralympic team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. It was the most successful team to date with a haul of nine gold medals, six silver and four bronze (and 44 personal bests). Triumph focuses on several disabled Kiwi athletes, from their arrival in the States to victory on the track, in the pool and on the field. The first Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960 with just 400 competitors. In Atlanta 3,500 athletes competed, 35 of them kiwis. Triumph broke ground screening in a primetime slot on TV One.
This documentary comprehensively traces the history of skiing and winter sports in New Zealand. From Mannering and Dixon, who used homemade skis in an almost-successful ascent of Mt Cook and the hut-building pioneers of recreational ski clubs in their pre-Gore-tex garb, to commercial ski fields and lifts, superb archive footage shows the advances. New Zealand teams at the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952 and Sarajevo 32 years later had come some way from the days when carrier pigeons were used to report snow conditions from Canterbury's ski fields to Christchurch.
In the middle of a decidedly average day, a house painter (The End of the Golden Weather's Stephen Papps) discovers an old flask in a hole in the wall. This short film, written and directed by James Cunningham and brought to life by 28 of his students at the Media and Design School, explores the idea of wish fufilment. The painter gets a great deal on the usual three wish limit from a blue genie with a Scottish accent, and samples a list of childhood dreams, including fighting fires, racing cars and photographing dinosaurs in the wild. All offer chances to showcase some CGI magic.
In this music-heavy web series, a South Auckland family competes in a local talent quest. Alongside battles over performing the traditional Samoan music favoured by their grandfather, the Saumalus have to deal with a dodgy competitor and some last minute changes of tune. There's also romance, heartbreak, and a shifty Palagi factory boss. The final episode (of 20) features behind the scenes bloopers. Directed by music video veteran Joe Lonie, The Factory began as a highly successful stage musical from South Auckland-based theatre group Kila Kokonut Krew.
Alex is a champion teenage swimmer determined to win selection to the 1960 Rome Olympics, in this adaptation of the award-winning young adults novel. Written by ex Empire Games swimming medallist Tessa Duder, Alex was the first in a quartet of books exploring the vicissitudes of the high achiever freestyler as she deals with rivalry, ambition, first love and the pressures of growing up. Lauren Jackson, who played the title role, later appeared in vampire movie Perfect Creature. The film was a co-production between New Zealand and Australia.
Teuila Blakely began her TV career presenting C4’s live music show Freestyle, before landing an extended role on Shortland Street. Blakely has shown her versatility by appearing in comedy shows (bro’Town, RadiRadiRah and Funny Girls), dramatic series (This is Not My Life) and films (Sione’s Wedding and Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business). She also made a splash as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
Samoan rapper Dei Hamo — real name Sani Sagala — topped the Kiwi charts in 2004 with his bass-heavy debut single ‘We Gon Ride'. It spent five weeks at number one, and stayed in the Top 10 for two months. It also made the Top 40 in Australia. Dei Hamo had been part of the early wave of South Auckland hip hop in the late 1980s, before returning to music in 2002. His debut album First Edition (2005) spawned a second hit with ‘To Tha Floor', which debuted at number five. Although further singles have followed, these days Sagala concentrates on directing music videos. He has made over 50 to date, for everyone from Pieter T to Smashproof — as well as short film The Crossroads: Le Māgafā, about musician Tha Freestyle.