Don Charles Selwyn

Ngāti Kurī, Te Aupouri

1936 - 2007

Don Selwyn was raised in Taumarunui and worked as a teacher before embarking on a career of acting, directing and producing in television, theatre and the film industry. He was one of the founding members of the New Zealand Māori Theatre Trust and from 1984 to 1990 he ran He Taonga I Tawhiti - a Māori and Pacific Island film and television training course. This was followed by the establishment of He Taonga Films in 1992 with Ruth Panapa in order to promote opportunities for Māori script writers. Selwyn went on to produce and direct television dramas in Māori and English. Don’t Go Past With Your Nose in the Air, which Selwyn produced and directed won ‘best foreign short’ at the 1992 New York Festival. And The Feathers of Peace of which Selwyn was executive producer won the 2000 New Zealand Media Peace Award. He was executive producer and director of The Maori Merchant of Venice which was the first Māori language feature film with English subtitles released in February 2001. He co-ordinated the Nga Puna series of television drama.

His huge contribution to Māori drama was recognised through the number of awards he received. In 1994 he received the National Film Board of Canada’s Alanis Obomsawin Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of Aboriginal film making at the 1994 Dreamspeakers Indigenous Film Festival. The following year he was honoured as New Zealander of the Year for his contribution to arts and culture and he received further recognition with the Wellington Fringe Award for service to theatre, film and television. In 1999 he was awarded the Officer of New Zealand Merit (ONZM) and received an honorary performing arts degree from Unitec. In 2002 he received an honorary degree from Massey University and in 2003 he was recipient of a lifetime achievement award for his work in film, television and theatre at the 2003 New Zealand film awards. In 2005 he was a recipient of Te Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi, an annual Creative New Zealand Māori Arts Board award for ‘outstanding contribution to the development of Māori arts’. In 2007 he received an Arts Foundation of NZ Icon Award.

He has written non-fiction articles, reviews and poetry under the pen-name Kona Te Auhere.

Biographical sources

  • "Veteran Maori Film-Maker And Actor Don Selwyn Dies." Apr. 13, 2007. 15 Oct. 2008.
  • "Nga Puna Ready for Primetime." Onfilm July (1994): 7.
  • "Our work/Māori Arts." Creative New Zealand Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. 23 Oct. 2008.
  • "The Maori Merchant of Venice: Don C Selwyn – executive producer/director.""hetaonga/merchant/The_Film_Makers/Don_C_Selwyn/don_c_selwyn.html 23 Oct. 2008.


  • Māui Pōtiki. He Taonga Films. Prod. and Dir. Don Selwyn.
  • Tohunga. He Taonga Films. Prod. and Dir. Don Selwyn.
  • Whakakautoro. Prod. Human Rights Tribunal. Dir. Don Selwyn.
  • Reviewed in Broadsheet 188 (June 1991): 7.
  • Don’t Go Past With Your Nose In The Air.
  • Taken from Hone Tuwhare’s story.
  • Nga Puna. 1994.
  • A series of four dramas which were screened on TV One in 1994.
  • Te Tangata Whai Rawa O Weneti. Dir. Don Selwyn.
  • The Merchant of Venice in te reo Māori.
  • Non-fiction

  • "They Came - They Went." Te Kaunihera Māori: New Zealand Māori Council Journal Autumn (1969): 27+.
  • A short account of a visit of North American Indians to New Zealand ‘to study the Māori in his present day way of life’. Selwyn writes that ‘[t]heir characteristics were the same as ours; brown, a minority group, emotive, compassionate and with a deep sense to be identified - as an ethnic group.’
  • "Ko Inia Te Wiata." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 2.4 (July/Aug. 1971): 24-25.
  • In this tribute to Te Wiata, Selwyn recalls his times with Te Wiata during the rehearsals and performances of Porgy and Bess which toured Australia and New Zealand with a Māori cast.
  • "Mihi." He Reo Hou: 5 plays by Māori playwrights. Wellington, N.Z.: Playmarket, 1991. 7.
  • Selwyn writes of the Eurocentric nature of much New Zealand drama but notes that Bruce Mason and Mervyn Thompson have included aspects of indigenous New Zealand in their drama and he commends the contribution of Playmarket in publishing the work of Māori playwrights.
  • Performing Arts

  • Taku Mangai – My Voice. Dir. Don Selwyn.
  • Solo play performed by William Davis.
  • Reviews

  • "The Passion of Te Rua." Rev. of Te Rua. Onfilm 8.7 (Aug. 1991): 16.


  • "Nga Puna Ready For Primetime." Onfilm July (1994): 7.
  • Archie, Carol. "Don Selwyn – Still Breaking Barriers." Mana: The Māori News Magazine For All New Zealanders 7 (Nov. 1994/ Jan. 1995): 57-60.
  • Hyde, Tom. "One And The Other." Metro [Auckland] 170 (Aug. 1995): 90-97.
  • "Honorary Degree For Actor, Director And Producer – Don Selwyn." Te Māori: Nga Hui Hui Nga Korero o Aotearoa (Mar. 1999): 4.
  • Ralston, Bill. "The Feathers Of Peace." Metro [Auckland] 229 (July 2000): 82-87.
  • "Pound For Pound In Te Reo." Pu Kaea Feb. 2001: 10.
  • "Innovative Māori Feature." New Zealand Film 66 (May 2001): 18-19.
  • "Merchant Of Venice." Mana: The Māori News Magazine For All New Zealanders 38 (Feb./Mar. 2001): 68-69.
  • "The Bard Of Aotearoa." Onfilm 18.2 (Feb. 2001): 15-16.
  • "Artist And Film Maker Honoured By Massey." Te Karere News: National Māori Community Newspaper May 2002: 2.
  • Calder, Peter. "Footy To Fairies – And Way Beyond." New Zealand Herald 16 Feb. 2002: A28.
  • Carnachan, Hamish. "The Merchants Of Movies." Investigate 3.20 (May 2002): 84-85.
  • White, Margo. "Shakespeare Korero." Metro [Auckland] 249 (Mar. 2002): 114-115.
  • Schmidt, Veronica. "Te Bard." Listener 2 Feb. 2002: 52-53.
  • Houlahan, Mark. "Shakespeare In The Settlers’ House." JNZL: Journal of New Zealand Literature 20 (2002): 112-124.
  • "Te Tangata Whai Rawa…Ki Waikato." Kōkiri Paetae July 2002: 4114.
  • Hewitson, Michele. "Man Who Colonised Shakespeare." New Zealand Herald 19 Nov. 2005: A30.
  • Vercoe, Moerangi. "Don Selwyn – Veteran Of The Arts." Mana: The Māori News Magazine For All New Zealanders 67 (Dec. 2005/Jan. 2006): 68-69.
  • "’Tireless’ Champion Of Māori Drama Dies At 71." Dominion Post 14 Apr. 2007: A2.
  • Burke, Roy. "A Teller Of Great Tales." Waikato Times 21 Apr. 2007: A13.
  • Kitchin, Peter. "Selwyn Bullied Into Acting." Dominion Post 19 Apr. 2007: B7.
  • Hauiti, Rosina. "The Sometimes Eloquent And Charming Don." Tu Mai: Offering An Indigenous New Zealand Perspective 86 (May 2007): 30, 38.
  • Shortland, Waihoroi and Sean Duffy. "Farewelling ‘The Don’." Mana: The Māori News Magazine For All New Zealanders 77 (Aug./Sept. 2007): 10-12.
  • Barclay, Barry (and others). "In Memoriam: Don Selwyn 1935-2007." Onfilm 24 (June 2007): 18-19.
  • Houlahan, Mike. "Deathbed Honour For Film-Sector Leader." New Zealand Herald 14 Apr. 2007: A5.
  • "Māori Actor, Film-Maker." Press 14 Apr. 2007: D20.
  • Sanderson, Martyn. "Don Selwyn: Producer, Director, Actor." Take: Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand Newsletter 47 (Win. 2007): 10-11.
  • Reviews

  • "Taku Mangai – My Voice." Te Māori News 5.3 (Feb. 1996): 9.
  • Te Tangata Whai Rawa O Weneti.
  • Reid, Benedict. "Flicks." Investigate 3.18 (Feb. 2002): 91.
  • Matthews, Philip. "A Wretch For All Cultures." Listener 9 Feb. 2002: 52-53.
  • Jackson, McDonald. "All Our Tribe." Landfall 204 (Spr. 2002): 155-163.
  • Wayne, Valerie. "Book And Media Reviews." Contemporary Pacific: A Journal Of Island Affairs 16.2 (Fall 2004): 425-429.