Karyn Hay presents Rialto Channel's new lineup

She’d probably hate the term, but in many a New Zealander’s eyes Ms. Karyn Hay is most definitely an icon. The long time host of alt music TV show Radio With Pictures at a time when the sight of a woman on television in New Zealand was rare and a woman talking music even more so; she became the voice of a generation. As Listener writer Diana Wichtel once so perfectly said, Hay’s Kiwi vowels ‘were, depending on your point of view, the end of civilization as we knew it or a breath of indigenous fresh air.’ BBC-led she most certainly was not, and as a music fan growing up in New Zealand at the time I was obsessed.

She went on to tick boxes like radio show host and music video director with aplomb, even nailing the job description ‘writer’ quite brilliantly when her first novel Emerald Budgies won the Hubert Church Best First Book Award in the Montana Book Awards. The lady is a living treasure, and she most definitely knows her shit.

Her latest role is a month on Rialto Channel fronting their Wednesday night line up of Kiwi documentaries. She tells me that when the channel approached her she was ‘completely delighted’ to be asked, as the calibre of documentary she will be presenting is ‘just outstanding, and I love Rialto.’ She’s a self- confessed fan of the genre, adding that the four she will be associated with are ‘very eclectic and in their own way, also very profound.’

I asked for her comment on the famous four she is presenting in the guise of what she calls a ‘dream job’...

Observing the planning and construction of New Zealand’s first ‘living building’, Te Wharehou o Tūhoe, this documentary portrays the profound connection between Ngāi Tūhoe and the land. ‘I love the fact that the documentary makers are German-born,’ says Hay, ‘so they are able to have such a unique perspective on the Tūhoe people. It starts with an interest purely in the architecture and build but the director becomes immersed in the culture as it goes on. I am so fascinated by the building too, it is quite incredible.’

The story of one of the mainstays of Christchurch’s underground music scene, the film documents two plus decades of heavy metal, drinking and... artistic endeavour. ‘I can only describe this as startlingly funny,’ says Hay. ‘I loved a quote about it that says the experience of watching the band is “like being at the party you don’t want to fucking go to but end up enjoying.’ I never saw Into The Void live but to see on film how much attitude they had is just priceless.’

In 1999, kiwi traveller Sven Pannell arrived in Africa and promptly had a run-in with rebel soldiers, bargaining for his life. Broke and homeless, he was saved by a crippled Samaritan named Johnson. Years later he returns with co-director and editor Costa Botes to find him. ‘This was such a challenge for Botes as he had to cut together old, raw footage and new footage of Sven returning to Rwanda as a lawyer, and the trip and the documentary just become a labour of love as the circumstances were so challenging,’ says Hay. ‘The theme is compelling as Sven goes back to find the man who helped him, whilst most people just wouldn’t bother.’

A tribute to the early skateboarders of Aotearoa, this amazing doco uses rare photos, a Flying Nun soundtrack and hours of Super 8 footage to tell the tale of an extraordinary era. Hay confesses she knew nothing of the early New Zealand skate scene prior, ‘so it was a real eye opener for me. I loved the footage
of Rob Muldoon at Manukau’s Skatopia and stuff like that; it opens up a whole era in New Zealand history that so many people know nothing about. It’s narrated by Graham Brazier too, which gives it another edge.’

Visit rialtochannel.co.nz or phone 0800 759 759 to get Rialto Channel on SKY and watch Karyn Hay present some of the latest kiwi films.