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Kathleen Mantel has worked as a director for the past 20 years.  She is of Ngāti Kahungunu descent.

Mantel began her screen career after studying Film and English Literature at Victoria University in Wellington. Starting out as a sound recordist, she went on to work behind the scenes in a variety of roles including camera operator, editor and  arts reporter for TV3’s Nightline.  

In the late 90s Mantel found herself in New York City, working in a busy Soho loft for internet start-up Pseudo Programs. Pseudo was one of the first companies to produce broadcast quality original content specifically for the web. Mantel spent three years directing shows there, including Gametime, an hour long, live daily show about computer and video games.  Mentored by veteran director and concert lighting guru Joshua White (aka Joshua Light), she also helmed documentaries on a variety of topics from art to subcultures travelling extensively throughout the United States and Japan.

Back in Aotearoa, Mantel directed the documentary KIDS for TVNZ2. Subtitled The Story of a Teenage Pregnancy, the film followed three teenagers as they navigate their world, their pregnancies, birth and new parenthood. 

Mantel went on to interview problem gamblers for her documentary It's Not a Game for TVNZ1, which won two awards at festivals in the United States. She followed it with 2005's Leaving the Exclusive Brethren for TV3. Narrated by Robyn Malcolm the documentary includes interviews with members of the separatist Raven-Taylor-Hales branch of the Exclusive Brethren (the first interviews of their kind) — plus others who argued their families had been torn apart after they left or were thrown out by the Brethren. The film won Mantel another two American awards, including a silver at the Houston International Independent Film Festival.

Starting with 2008's Raising the Moko (on grandparents raising their grandchildren), Mantel has directed a number of documentaries for Māori Television. In 2010 she was one of a trio of directors who helmed Tamariki Ora: A New Beginning. Devoted to stopping child abuse, the two-night Māori Television broadcast featured interviews with people who had confronted violence in their family and community.

Inside New Zealand documentary Dying for a Smoke (2011) examined the tobacco industry in New Zealand, and how Māori smokers are targeted. Among others, Mantel interviewed corporate whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand (played by Russell Crowe in movie The Insider), and nabbed a rare on-camera interview with representatives of multinational company Imperial Tobacco.

In August 2011 Mantel's doco The Green Chain was chosen to launch the Pakipūmeka Aotearoa documentary slot on Māori Television. Winner of the 2012 NZ Television Award for Best Popular Documentary, The Green Chain follows sawmill worker Joe Harawira and his fight to expose the damage that the poisons at his old workplace caused to his workmates.

Mantel has been a director for hire on numerous projects including the travel series Te Araroa Trails with Pio Terei, Grand Designs for TV3, and 2 seasons of PRIME TV’S history series Making New Zealand. In 2016 she won the NZONAIR Doc Edge award for Best TV Documentary for suicide prevention documentary Target Zero, profiling the work of Mike King.  

Kathleen spent a year filming at Hastings Boys High for the documentary Educating Tama for Māori Television. 5 years later she spent a year filming at Hamilton School Fraser High for the 2 part documentary series High School Mums for TVNZ1. High School Mums was nominated for best documentary series in the 2020 NZTV awards.

In 2019 Kathleen started making a documentary series on the life of Hawkes Bay barber Peleti Oli and his beloved community of Flaxmere. In 2020 she made a second series of The Barber following Peleti and his move into local politics.

During 2020 - 2021 throughout the covid pandemic Kathleen made the award winning 7-part documentary series Chatham Islanders - Tchakat Tchatam Airani

TE HOKINGA MAI - the return is a new documentary series following people, whānau and communities as they make the return journey home.  To whenua, to whakapapa, to oneself.  

Black Iris is currently in production of MOTUHAKETANGA, a documentary giving a voice to wāhine Māori leaving prison.

Kathleen Mantel
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