Discovery commissions Haka documentary

Mint Pictures has been commissioned by Discovery Networks to produce the next instalment in the ‘John Eales Reveals’ documentary series about New Zealand’s sacred ritual, the Haka.

By his own admission, rugby union legend John Eales has only one regret in his illustrious playing career – that as captain of his country in 1996, he and the Wallabies turned their backs on the All Blacks as they performed the Haka in Wellington, triggering outrage on both sides of The Ditch. For two decades, Eales has rued that decision and now he’s ready to make peace with his past.

The one-hour documentary, John Eales Reveals: The Haka, will follow Eales as he sets out to understand the deep cultural, historical, social, communal and psychological aspects that makes the Haka not just the greatest pre-match ritual in world sport, but a pivotal part of New Zealand’s culture and identity. Under the stewardship of All Blacks legend Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford, Eales will immerse himself in the Haka as he crisscrosses New Zealand – from Maori communities in Rotorua to Eden Park in Auckland – on his road to redemption. The documentary will also feature interviews with some of Australia and New Zealand’s rugby greats.

Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford and John Eales at Jonah Lomu’s gravesite.

“This is a deeply personal project for John and a story that needs to be told,” said Thierry Bled, Executive Producer Australia & New Zealand, DNAP. “We’re proud to be working with Mint Pictures to bring our viewers an in-depth look at one of the world’s most iconic rituals, while also helping to close a chapter in John’s illustrious rugby career. As the Haka is so symbolic in New Zealand’s culture, to ensure the utmost respect is paid to the country’s Maori community and their traditions, the producers have brought on board an indigenous production consultant for the documentary.”

Adam Kay, managing director of Mint Pictures, added: “We’re hugely excited about this documentary for Discovery – Mint Pictures and our predecessor, North One Australia, have spent the last decade fusing sport, culture and human interest stories. This has a great back-story, and will open a window into this vital aspect of Maori and Kiwi culture.” 

“Some of the first Hakas I remember were led by Buck Shelford so to have him taking me on this journey of discovery has been brilliant,” said John Eales. “Being able to dig deeper into Maori culture and into the history and significance of the Haka in sporting, military and broader societal context has been eye-opening. I still wish we had faced the Haka on that day in 1996, I can’t have that time again, but now at least I have a greater sensitivity and appreciation for the powerful tradition that it is.”

John Eales Reveals: The Haka will premiere in August on the Discovery Channel.

See the article in the Sunday Telegraph here.

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