A bright new child star, a cross-cultural story written by one of our most beloved authors, and a gorgeous production. Looks like we’ve got another Whale Rider. Kaitangata Twitch (Maori, Sunday, 7.00pm) is Maori Television’s first major locally commissioned drama series, one “you wouldn’t find on any of the other networks in New Zealand”, says producer Chris Hampson. It’s based on Margaret Mahy’s book about a 12-year-old girl who explores the enigma of an island that apparently chomps people.
Te Waimarie Kessell is the bright young thing who plays lead character Meredith. She is drawn into a mystery involving the disappearance of a girl after an earthquake 50 years before, when the island last “twitched”. There’s even a motto: “First the twitch, then the trouble”. The cast features some of our best actors: George Henare is the guardian of the island and a mentor to Meredith; Charles Mesure is Meredith’s dad, Carey, “a lovable doofus”; Miriama Smith is Meredith’s mum, Grace; and Blair Strang plays Sebastian, a property developer with his eye on Kaitangata, and on Grace, his former flame.
The production side is similarly classy: veteran director Yvonne Mackay filmed at Governor’s Bay, where Mahy lives, and Mahy’s book was adapted by Gavin Strawhan (Go Girls), Michael Bennett and Briar Grace-Smith. Music comes from Gareth Farr, Tiki Taane and taonga puoro expert Richard Nunns.
In a making-of documentary, Mahy explains that she was tentative about the Maori aspects of Kaitangata Twitch (it was her first cross-cultural story), however, she says that she really likes that the Maori element has been expanded and that “the film-makers have developed that in a way that I couldn’t or wouldn’t have even tried”.