The Panthers series breaks record for strongest ever opening week

By Jessica Tyson

Ahead of its international premiere at Toronto International Film Festival, The Panthers television series has had the strongest first week of any drama since the start of TVNZ OnDemand.

Inspired by true events, the series was released in Aotearoa on August 15 and earned praise from critics for its bold storytelling, artful infusion of music and strong performances.

The series follows Will ‘Ilolahia (Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi), who along with a group of young street gangsters and university students, form The Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s, to fight a broken system and become the history-making revolutionaries that their community so desperately need them to be.

Speaking on behalf of the filmmakers, co-creator Halaifonua Finau says they could not be happier about the success of The Panthers “here at home”.

“Our goal, first and foremost, was to make a street classic one that was entertaining, engaging and honoured The Polynesian Panthers, and it’s so mean to see it resonating so strongly with New Zealanders.”

Finau’s writing and producing partner, Tom Hern, says, “We are indebted to the real Polynesian Panthers for their work to make Aotearoa a better place, and for giving us the opportunity to tell their story. We hope that they, along with our amazing cast and crew, are proud of this record-breaking achievement.”

Commissioner Steve Barr said The Polynesian Panthers were civil rights warriors.

“We’re thrilled they and the cast and crew are getting the recognition they deserve.”

The series will have its international premiere as an Official Selection at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, the first New Zealand-made TV series to do so and one of only four TV shows accepted to the prestigious festival.