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Introduction to New Zealand Cinema

If you’re thinking about moving to New Zealand, you’re probably interested in watching as much New Zealand cinema as possible to help familiarize yourself with the culture and country. Well, I have bad news for you. There isn’t much New Zealand cinema, and what little there is doesn’t represent day to day life very well since it’s highly dramatized.

Having said that, here’s a list of shows to help you get acquainted with New Zealand:

Boy (on a related note, you will never get this song out of your head.)

Put this movie at the top of your list. It’s funny, heartwarming and a good example of New Zealand humor. Plus, it has some good shots of scenery outside of Auckland.

Once Were Warriors

Saying that all Maori culture is like this movie is sort of like saying all African American culture is like Boyz in the Hood.  Having said that, this movie is a good illustration that New Zealand does have its own social maladies just like any other country. So if you expect moving to New Zealand to solve all your problems in life, watch “Once Were Warriors” for a little dose of reality.

P.S. The main character of this movie is called “Jake the Muss.” “Muss” means “muscle.” It drove me crazy trying to figure that out when I watched this movie.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

This is the sequel to “Once Were Warriors.” If you’ve watched “Once Were Warriors” you basically have to watch “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” Be warned though, “Once Were Warriors” is to “First Blood” as “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” is to “Rambo II.” The sequel is more or less a hollow action movie, but it still does a good job of showcasing a lot of ancient Maori traditions and how they have been adopted into modern city life.

Whale Rider

Whale Rider is like “Boy” in that it portrays life on Maori homeland…which an immigrant is unlikely to visit and will almost certainly never live on. So it won’t really prepare you to live in New Zealand. However, it’s a heartwarming introduction to Maori culture, and it has shows what the scenery outside of Auckland looks like.

Shortland Street

I’ve never watched “Shortland Street,” but it’s pretty popular here. The low budget is sort of indicative of New Zealand in general. Living in New Zealand is like living in a low budget America, which sounds horrifying to some people, but the upside to the low budget lifestyle is that your problems in life will most likely be equally low key. Fun fact: the day/time Shortland street plays on the television almost changed in 2011, but the prime minister (yes, the prime minister) put his foot down and stopped the change.

Outrageous Fortune

I’ve never actually watched Outrageous Fortune either, but it’s really popular in New Zealand, and everyone I’ve talked to says it does a good job of portraying life in West Auckland. The area out west towards Glen Eden is kind of ghetto. Mount Eden or Mount Albert are nicer place to raise kids.

Love Birds
I will never watch this movie because it’s stupid, and I’m a little disappointed in Rhys Darby for agreeing to be in a formulaic, made-for-children love story that revolves around a gimmicky animal. However, if you watch it you’ll see what Auckland looks like and hear what Kiwis sound like. So there’s that.

Black Sheep

I actually found this movie to be a little boring. I didn’t finish it, but does a good job of showing the scenery outside of Auckland, and it’s a classic example of how Kiwis don’t take themselves too seriously.

Diagnosis Death

This is a comedy from the Flight of the Conchords guys, but it’s not as funny or entertaining as Flight of the Conchords. But it takes place in New Zealand and has Kiwi actors in it. So…yeah.

Two Little Boys

Another movie by the Flight of the Conchords team. Hilarious. Watch it.

The River Queen

This takes place during the colonial settlement days in New Zealand and centers around the skirmish war between the British and the Maori. It doesn’t explain the reasons or outcome of the war, and it won’t give you an idea of what New Zealand is like, but it’s a good story and has beautiful scenery and lots of Maoris.

Out of the Blue

America has had so many mass gunman shootings that Hollywood hasn’t made movies about all of them. New Zealand had one lone gunman shooting spree. It was an infamous day in New Zealand history, and in 2006 a movie was made about it.


6 Responses

  1. How funny that we would stumble upon your blog today when it was just last night that we decided we had better catch up on our New Zealand cinema. Thanks for the great suggestions. We’ll try and watch those in the coming days.

    • We’re glad we could help.

  2. Thanks! Will definitely watch the ones I haven’t seen already. My sister lives in New Zealand and has been persuading me for the past year to move there too so your blog has been very informative and entertaining. I just love your blog! Keep it up 🙂

  3. You forgot Eagle vs. Shark and The Piano. The Piano was filmed at Piha and Kerekere. When I first visited Piha I had this odd feeling that I had been there before.

  4. Oh and Heaveanly Creatures. Classic Peter Jackson film based on a true story.

  5. It was actually Coronation Street which was rescheduled, not Shorty. They needed the time slot for screening Rugby World Cup matches on TV1 if I remember correctly. But yes, the PM was called upon to see what he could do about it!

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