Māori documentary maker adds to Tokyo 2020 Olympic success for Aotearoa

By James Perry

A once in a lifetime opportunity to document 100 years of Aotearoa Olympic history has seen Māori sports documentary maker Paora Ratahi, and his team at Sky Sport NZ, scoop a Silver medal at the prestigious Olympic Golden Ring Awards earlier this month.

Ratahi produced and directed One Fern: 100 Years ahead of Tokyo 2020, in conjunction with the New Zealand Olympic Committee. The documentary marked 100 years since New Zealand first sent an independent team to the Olympic Games.

“It was an honour and a privilege to put together a project like this, it only comes around once every 100 years. To put something together like this has been awesome. And talking to the people we did for this project was awesome,” Ratahi says.

One Fern -100 Years - Sky Sport from Paora Ratahi on Vimeo.

The awards are organised by the International Olympic Committee to promote and award excellence in the broadcasting of the Olympic Games. Ratahi says to be recognised on an international stage for the work is hard to describe.

“When you’re a documentary maker you’re so focused and tunnel-visioned on getting the project out. So when awards happen like this it’s so surprising, but it’s recognition for all the mahi that was put into it.”

Ratahi says countless hours of mahi was put into crafting the 52 minute documentary that looked at the history of the silver fern, and its attachment to the NZ Olympic Team from the first time it was worn in 1920 at Antwerp, Belgium.

“A lot of mahi was put into working out how to document 100 years of Olympic history. Also, New Zealand Olympics wanted the history of the Silver Fern put into it as well. And trying to make it relevant to current athletes.”

The result, he says, was discovering one thing a lot of our Olympians had in common that stood out above most other things.

“The commitment, and their mindset to win and be the best. It was awesome and inspiring to hear people like Ian Ferguson, Sarah Ulmer, Danyon Loader, athletes like that who are world-famous and absolute legends of NZ Olympics, and get an insight into their mindset and what it took to win.”

While the awards credited just Ratahi as the sole producer and director for One Fern: 100 Years, while others such as the Gold Award-winning NBC Universal's Imagine had five producers and a director, he says the production was very much a team effort.

“I’m actually quite embarrassed because I should’ve put my other mates' names in there as well. We had a small team of about three or four of us that worked on the kaupapa.”

For the record, his team included Mark Malaki-Williams, Jack Mugford and Wilson Catton.

Paora Ratahi is an experienced hand at producing sports programming and documentaries, including the popular Preseason with the Warriors, Pre-season with the Hurricanes, and the All Access series on Sky Sport. Prior to working with Sky Sport, Ratahi produced and developed content at Māori Television, with a particular emphasis on sport.