It was Friday confirmed that the series will make its international premiere as an official selection at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, as part of the Primetime program.
The six, hour-long episodes, based-on-a-true-story series covers a devastating and resonant period in New Zealand’s history through the dramatization of the founding of The Polynesian Panthers – a revolutionary social justice movement directly inspired by the Black Panther movement in the U.S.
The 1974-set narrative follows a young man who is the black sheep of his Tongan family who is frustrated by his community being stuck in a broken economic and criminal justice system. In the face of increasingly aggressive racial-profiling from the government and police force, he forms his own revolutionary movement The Polynesian Panthers, while also trying to juggle his conservative parents’ expectations and romance with a street queen.
Newcomers Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi and Lealani Siaosi star alongside Beulah Koale (“Thank You for Your Service,” “Hawaii Five-O”), Frankie Adams (“Mortal Engines,”) and veteran Roy Billing (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “Underbelly”).
The series was produced by Tavake, in association with Four Knights Film. It was first commissioned for TVNZ and funded by NZ On Air. Tavake is a new production company, founded by Tom Hern (“The Meg,” “Shadow in the Cloud”) and Halaifonua Finau (“Jonah,” “Baby Mama’s Club”). Hern is also co-founder of Four Knights, alongside James Napier Robertson.
Set to premiere in New Zealand on TVNZ on Sunday, “The Panthers” was created by showrunners and executive producers Hern and Finau (“Jonah,” “Baby Mama’s Club”). Directors include Miki Magasiva (“Brother,” “Teina Sa”), Hern, Vea Mafile’o (“For My Father’s Kingdom”), Mario Faumui (“Teine Sa”) and Chris Graham (“Sione’s Wedding,” “The Ferryman”).
Crystal Vaega is co-producer. Napier Robertson (“The Dark Horse”), Will ‘Ilolahia and Kini Roy Earley are co-executive producers.
Prentiss Fraser, EVP Television Distribution at Endeavor Content, said: “ ‘The Panthers’ is a timely series that shines a spotlight on a shameful stain in New Zealand’s recent history, as well as being infused with social and political themes that are still highly relevant to today’s world.”