Westside uses real-life footage of infamous 1981 Springbok Tour in season final
Even if they're not old enough to remember the actual event, most New Zealanders have at least heard of the infamous 1981 Springbok Tour, that fraught South African rugby tour which sparked widespread protests around the country.
Westside director Murray Keane remembers it. He was there, man.
"I was in Christchurch as a student," recalls Keane. "I came from a big rugby family background out at Helensville, and my parents were fully aware of the fact that I was suddenly out there protesting."
"I remember the first test match in Christchurch — I rang them to say that I'd been arrested for obstructing a carriageway. I got locked up overnight, did all of that."
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Now, thanks to Westside, the 53-year-old former actor — his credits include Shark In The Park, Shortland Street and Peter Jackson's Braindead, in which he played a zombie victim - has gotten the chance to revisit those heady times.
"I think you realise it's impact far more on reflection than you do at the time," says Keane, "because I was kind of just there and amongst it, and it seemed like the right thing to do. But now it's very exciting going back and going through the stories."
Westside watchers will have already seen real-life footage from the Springbok Tour interwoven into episode four, in which some of the characters travelled to Hamilton and became part of the July 25 pitch invasion that eventually saw the South Africans' second match cancelled.
For episode 10, the season final, that dose of reality has been cranked up a notch or two, with Ted West and co spending most of their time in and around the September 12 protests at Auckland's Eden Park, where a low-flying Cessna light aircraft dropped flour bombs onto the pitch at the final test match.
"Michael Hurst, one of the other Westside directors, was in a group called 'Artists Against Apartheid'," says Keane. "They were there that day at Eden Park, and he said it was genuinely terrifying. The cops — and the protestors — were out for a stoush that day. People knew that there was going to be a battle, and that's how it erupted."
The real-life footage used in episode 10 comes mostly from Merata Mita's documentary Patu!, which proved an invaluable resource for the director.
"It was all stuff that was shot by lots of cameramen, who were anticipating riots on that day," says Keane. "People like Roger Donaldson, Alun Bollinger — a whole lot of guys just got their cameras out and Merata's put it all together."
The use of Mita's Patu! footage was particularly poignant for Keane, who had a personal connection to the late filmmaker.
"I knew Merata really well. It was kind of weird, because I'd met her on a couple of occasions."
"I remember I was about to shoot the episode, and I do a lot of swimming at the Olympic pool (in Auckland's Newmarket), and I had my car parked opposite Maori Television. As I went back to my car, I sort of said a little hello, and a little prayer to Merata, and I thanked her, because she died on the steps of Maori Television."
"I said, 'Oh, it'd be great if I could use Patu!, thanks very much'. And we did, in the end, and it was wonderful, so thanks to her."
While it may have turned out well eventually, inserting real-life footage into the episode wasn't always the plan.
"The idea initially in the script was that we were going to recreate everything," Keane explains. "We were going to have the most extras that SPP (South Pacific Pictures) have ever really had on a shoot."
"We had nearly 200 extras, we had to block off streets in Mt Albert and do this whole big number, because our cast was an integral part of it. But we found that the footage from Patu! became really useful."
"It gave the episode an interior believability — you can clearly see what was going on, and it's a bit of a balancing act where we've jumped in and incorporated our people, but it gave it a really good believability. It slotted itself in there really well, and so we used a lot more of it than we intended to."
As for the finished product, Keane says he couldn't be happier with the way they were able to integrate the real-life footage of the Springbok Tour into the fictional drama of Westside.
"Absolutely. It's actually one of my favourite episodes, if not my favourite of anything that I've done."
"I like the idea of taking that historical context, which was a huge day in our nation, but bedded underneath it all is this fantastic action sequence of Ted and the gang up to no good."
Westside, TV3, Sunday, 8.30pm