'Ashes and prophets'

Funding for TV drama series on Rastafarian ‘reign of terror’.

Funding for TV drama series on Rastafarian ‘reign of terror’.

A Raupapa Whakaari Drama to the World initiative is to give development funding of $80,000 for a writer/producer team to develop a TV drama series based on a Rastafarian sect’s reign of terror in Ruatoria in the mid 1980s. Multiple arson attacks during that five years included, after a period of quiet, the burning of a house occupied by a Rastafarian man, his wife and child, who managed to escape. Gisborne Herald file picture

A horse dragged behind a car, a beheading and multiple arson attacks are associated with a Rastafarian sect’s reign of terror in Ruatoria from 1985 to 1990.

A TV drama series called Ashes and Prophets that centres on Ruatoria Rastas’ revenge for historical land theft is one of four projects selected for scripted series drama development.

NZ On Air and the New Zealand Film Commission have announced further development funding of $80,000 to each of four scripted series projects.

The partnership’s Raupapa Whakaari Drama to the World initiative aims to support writer/producer teams to develop high-end, scripted series drama with international and domestic appeal.

Behind Ashes and Prophets are Kath Akuhata-Brown, Greg McGee, Philippa Rennie, Robin Scholes and Lee Tamahori, some of who have strong East Coast connections.

“I grew up in Ruatoria during that period,” says former Gisborne Herald journalist Akuhata-Brown, who covered some of the troubles in Ruatoria from 1985.

McGee, Tamahori and Akuhata-Brown will storyline episodes before McGee and Akuhata-Brown write full episodes respectively.

Directed by Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, Die Another Day), the TV series will cover the five-year period of terror that engulfed the East Coast town.

Some material for the series will be sourced from another former journalist with The Gisborne Herald, Angus Gillies.

In a self-published trilogy called Ngati Dread, Gillies wrote comprehensively about what is widely regarded as one of the most bizarre chapters in modern New Zealand history.

Akuhata-Brown and McGee are yet to begin writing the script for the drama series.

Their job will be to lift the story from history and represent it as drama.

This will require a lot of discussion with Ruatoria locals, says Akuhata-Brown.

“We have a strong sense of the world up there and close relationships with people — brothers, cousins, aunties, uncles — there.

“We’re approaching the script from a position of being deeply respectful of people’s emotions and experiences.

“Having a detailed chronology of actual events helps. In the scriptwriting process we’ll pin down the themes. We’ll get into a room together and hammer out the five-year period.

“We have to immerse ourselves in the characters. Character motivates action. That doesn’t mean we’re adapting a real story to the screen but there will be some reflection of the truth.

“Drama contributes to the greater narrative. It gives it a focused voice.”

A horse dragged behind a car, a beheading and multiple arson attacks are associated with a Rastafarian sect’s reign of terror in Ruatoria from 1985 to 1990.

A TV drama series called Ashes and Prophets that centres on Ruatoria Rastas’ revenge for historical land theft is one of four projects selected for scripted series drama development.

NZ On Air and the New Zealand Film Commission have announced further development funding of $80,000 to each of four scripted series projects.

The partnership’s Raupapa Whakaari Drama to the World initiative aims to support writer/producer teams to develop high-end, scripted series drama with international and domestic appeal.

Behind Ashes and Prophets are Kath Akuhata-Brown, Greg McGee, Philippa Rennie, Robin Scholes and Lee Tamahori, some of who have strong East Coast connections.

“I grew up in Ruatoria during that period,” says former Gisborne Herald journalist Akuhata-Brown, who covered some of the troubles in Ruatoria from 1985.

McGee, Tamahori and Akuhata-Brown will storyline episodes before McGee and Akuhata-Brown write full episodes respectively.

Directed by Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, Die Another Day), the TV series will cover the five-year period of terror that engulfed the East Coast town.

Some material for the series will be sourced from another former journalist with The Gisborne Herald, Angus Gillies.

In a self-published trilogy called Ngati Dread, Gillies wrote comprehensively about what is widely regarded as one of the most bizarre chapters in modern New Zealand history.

Akuhata-Brown and McGee are yet to begin writing the script for the drama series.

Their job will be to lift the story from history and represent it as drama.

This will require a lot of discussion with Ruatoria locals, says Akuhata-Brown.

“We have a strong sense of the world up there and close relationships with people — brothers, cousins, aunties, uncles — there.

“We’re approaching the script from a position of being deeply respectful of people’s emotions and experiences.

“Having a detailed chronology of actual events helps. In the scriptwriting process we’ll pin down the themes. We’ll get into a room together and hammer out the five-year period.

“We have to immerse ourselves in the characters. Character motivates action. That doesn’t mean we’re adapting a real story to the screen but there will be some reflection of the truth.

“Drama contributes to the greater narrative. It gives it a focused voice.”

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CLN - 1 month ago
As a family member of a person whose life was inexplicably changed by these events, I strongly believe that we should leave sleeping dogs lie and this is a huge mistake. It will only cause distress to all those affected. Lives were lost and changed in a very negative way. There are no positives to this series being produced.

Katherine Callaghan - 1 month ago
What kind of insensitive human comes up with such an unspeakably hurtful idea for a story line? How does a drama on television written by people who have ties to here, but don't live here, help make our lives or anyone else's any better? It doesn't. Who would benefit from this exercise? Nobody throws $80,000 anybody's way and expects nothing in return!

Jarred - 26 days ago
Well this is going to cause a lot of distress amongst the Ruatorea community! Sad that people want to make $$$ off something like this.

Alisha, Ruatoria - 26 days ago
"We're approaching the script from a position of being deeply respectful of people's emotions and experiences."

No you're not! Leave it alone!

Tony Chambers, Brisbane - 26 days ago
Leave the past behind, move forward.
Free money for what?
No good will come from it.

Tina Nepia - 26 days ago
Why bring all this mamae up again? This community and a lot of whanau suffered over a lot of years. Leave things alone.

Tangiwai CAMPBELL, Manawatu - 26 days ago
Aue all I can say is, my gut is already turning, tears are already filling my eyes and I'm glad my nan won't ever get to see this, for I know her heart would break again for sure.
#LeaveItAlone

Priscilla Chambers - 26 days ago
Leave the past in the past.

Shellina, Ruatorea - 26 days ago
I hope they are prepared for the backlash of waking up what should be left asleep.

Marama Stark, Whanganui - 26 days ago
Au?! Are you telling the world that you have found the actual truth from all angles to make it OK for you to bring this not-so-nice part of the families involved lives and make it a documentary? I find this to be heartless and disrespectful. The flames have never died out for everyone involved, now the flame has just gone from 50 percent to 150 percent. I wish for closure for all involved, however that can be done respectfully and peacefully. Imagine how all the families are feeling, if 'I' am feeling like this!!!!!!!! God bless everyone involved and their extended families. Me te Atua tatou hei manaaki i nga wa katoa.

Hemoata Keelan - 26 days ago
Aue, really? We must be really hard up for a documentary to be going back to this tragic event in Ruatorea history. No one here wants it brought back to life. We could do with $80,000 for Hiruharama Marae.

Tira Mathews, Pahiatua - 25 days ago
It seems the locals have spoken. If they dont participate, there will be no story. Much aroha to all the whanau back up the Coast. Kia kaha

Te Whanau Hauraki, Ruatorea - 22 days ago
What the Actual F*$#

Karaumata, Auckland - 18 days ago
I see opportunity to forgive and heal a space where there is much healing to be done. We cannot heal that which remains hidden. Yes, it's difficult to face truth - whatever that may be - but until we do, there is no redress to the trauma that lies hidden. When we bring it into full view it becomes illuminated. When our intention is to heal, when Wairua directs this space, the impossible becomes possible. There are no barriers with Wairua, only love. I hope they have good intentions. Love and light to this space. Ma the Atua koutou nga whanau e manaakitia

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