Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Family reunion

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TV is in the middle of a nostalgia TV orgy right now. Paul Casserly takes some notes.
Temuera Morrison starring as Jake the Mus in the film 'Once Were Warriors'.
Temuera Morrison starring as Jake the Mus in the film 'Once Were Warriors'.

Dredging up the past. That's what it is. And I'm not just talking about Nicky Hager's book "Dirty Politics". The brilliant peek behind the political curtain has been cutting into my TV viewing for the past few days, it really is a good read. That terrible whale! That conniving Collins!

But Hager's not the only one digging up the dirt of days gone by. TV is in the middle of a nostalgia orgy at the minute. The most enjoyable rehash has been INXS: Never Tear Us Apart on TV3, which has captured the rise of the band with cracking pace, perms, and wit. (Part two screens on Thursday).

Sunday nights on TV One have been packed with backward looking programmes. We've been taken back to World War II with Nancy Wake: The White Mouse. We've relived the horror of the Erebus crash, (Erebus: Operation Overdue). And we have been dragged back to the even more harrowing 2011 World Cup Rugby final, via The Kick. David de Lautour was great as 'Beaver'.

Casting characters that we all know so well can't have been easy, but they nailed it more than not. Steve Hansen (Geoff Dolan) and Richard Kahui stand out for me, and poor old Piri Weepu scoffing all the whitebait had me in stiches.

And then, just last night, director Robert Sarkies impressed us again with Consent, his pitch perfect retelling of the Louise Nicholas story that should win all sorts of awards from acting to art direction. Thank god for TV One +1 though, it seems the MySky listing was out of sync with the programme, meaning if you recorded it you may not have the last half hour.

Once Were Warriors also screened again last night on Maori TV, a timely precursor for tonight's documentary Once Were Warriors. Where Are They Now? I had to a chance to watch a preview of the doco and can report that it's a great watch.

Fronted by Once Were Warriors star Julian Arahanga, who played Jake and Beth Heke's son Nig, this is a good old fashioned "where are they now?" combined with an E True Hollywood Story on the film itself.

We begin as Arahanga, who is now a filmmaker in Wellington, sets off on his quest. "After 20 years I thought it was time to put the family back together."

First stop is Queensland, now home to his screen sister Grace Heke (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) who left NZ after making the film, with a career in the Australian film industry in mind. However that's on hold for the moment, as she gets on with "having kids".

You may recall that she drew the short straw in the film, being raped and then hanging herself. Her character was the heart of the film to such an extent that people came up to her for years after wanting to hug her. "They wanted to hug Grace".

Arahanga tiki tours his way around the country and globe to bring the family members back home. Rena Owen (Beth) is in California. Joesph Kairau who played little Huata Heke is now a giant working on a dairy farm. Taungaroa Emile (Boogie) is in Taranaki. Rachael Morris Tautau (Polly) seems the most removed from the world of entertainment and runs a fish and chip shop in Tolaga Bay.

She's looking forward to the trip to Auckland and will "bring back photos for the family." Meanwhile, Jake the Muss, (Morrison) is waiting for the whanau at the Grey Lynn bowling club, where the crew eventually meet up.

Read more: Once Were Warriors: Twenty years on

Fellow movie star, Cliff Curtis (Uncle Bully) is unavailable for the reunion but we see him on Venice Beach where he gives a great interview about initially turning down the role of Bully, complete with a lovely Robert Bruce (his late manager) impersonation that Steve Coogan would be proud of.

But like the film, it's Beth and Jake that have the most impact here. Owen is frank about her reasons for wanting to play Beth as if her life depended on it, and Tem's search for the anger needed to play the role includes a road rage anecdote that might explain that crazy guy you saw on the western motorway a decade ago.

But it's not just a family reunion. Director Lee Tamahori and Producer Robin Scholes also make appearances with the later revealing a rather personal reason for wanting to make the film. You get the sense that a whole other documentary could be made as we rush through some of these stories, or note that Alan Duff barely gets a mention, so if I have one complaint it's that I was left wanting more.

For everyone involved it's clear that film will be a hard moment to beat. It was life changing for some, a great adventure for others and throughout this revealing and entertaining tribute, the words "it remains the single most important film to come out of this country" ring strong and true.

Once Were Warriors. Where Are They Now? Tonight 9.30pm Maori TV.

Other shows on my list this week:

Utopia, Monday, 9.30pm, Soho. (The first episode of season 2.)
Broad City, Tuesday 9.35pm, Comedy Central.
3rd Degree, Wednesday 8.30pm, TV3.
INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, Thursday, 8.30pm TV3.
The Late Night Big Breakfast, Thursday, 10.20pm TV1.
Prime Time With Sean Plunket, 9.40pm Friday, Prime.

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