Keith Hill

Writer, filmaker, publisher

Writer, filmaker, publisher

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Photo: Daniel Strang
"New Zealand literature has no one like him. Always surprising, a genuine original." — Roger Horrocks

Keith is a writer and filmmaker living in Aotearoa New Zealand who works across a range of creative and educational fields. He was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1957, and graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA majoring in English in 1979. He returned to the university in 2020 for post-graduate study, being awarded Master of Arts (Hons) for research into Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis.

Since 1982 Keith has worked professionally in Aotearoa New Zealand's screen industries. He has contributed to over 50 short films and music videos as cinematographer, camera operator, first AD, editor, writer, director and producer. Subsequently, Keith taught film and video production for eight years, first as visiting lecturer in film in Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, then for seven years at Hamilton's Wintec, in the Moving Image Department of the Media Arts Degree programme, being head of department for five years.

From 2004 Keith worked primarily as editor and story producer on primetime television series, including the international hit actuality documentary series,
Lion Man, and Voices of Our Future, a series starring te reo music group, Maimoa. Keith's own projects include an award-winning feature film, This Is Not A Love Story (2003), which won the Best Screenplay Award at US indie Film Festival DancesWithFilms and was a finalist in the Best Screenplay and Best Actor categories of the 2004 NZ Film Awards. He has also made a number of arts documentaries that bring together his interests in music and filmmaking, celebrating the accomplishments of NZ composers and musicians. Persuading the Baby to Float (2012), documenting the setting of Bill Manhire’s poetry to music, premiered in the Wellington International Film Festival. A programme of eight music documentaries subsequently screened on Sky TV's Arts channel.

Keith's desire to support others' creativity led him in 1991 to co-found Rattle Records, a label dedicated to world, classical, jazz and new music. He had the privilege of working with musicians including Hirini Melbourne, Richard Nunns, Marilyn Crispell, Pedro Carneiro, Joshua Redman and NZ String Quartet, with composers Jack Body, Gillian Whitehead and John Psathas, and with avantgardists Gitbox Rebellion and From Scratch. The label won six NZ Music Awards before Keith moved on to create his own music label, Attar Music, in 2009. He released four albums before streaming made life too difficult for a small NZ art label to survive. Among these albums was
sun moon stars rain, Norman Meehan's setting of e.e. cummings poems to music, which Norman performed with Hannah Griffin. Keith made a documentary to celebrate the project.

Keith has long been fascinated both by spirituality and by the cultural transformations humanity's expression of their spiritual nature has undergone over the millennia. This interest has resulted in his exploring forms of moral and metaphysical beliefs, and multiple metaphysical descriptions of reality. This fascination led Keith, at the age of seventeen, to join a group in his home town led by Naqshbandi Sufi, New Zealander Neil Abdullah Dougan. The group combined the psychospiritual teaching of G.I. Gurdjieff with Sufi metaphysics and practices. (The group was satirised by C.K. Stead in his novel,
The Death of the Body.)

More recently, Keith has worked with meditator and channeller Peter Calvert, exploring the metaphysical and psychological implications of reincarnation. Keith's non-fiction writing reflects these interests, with a focus on how humanity's view of reality has fundamentally changed over the past four hundred years, since the advent of the scientific revolution. Translations of the
Bhagavad Gita, of the poetry of Indian mystics Mirabai and Kabir, of the Sufi Master Ibn 'Arabi, and a creative response to the Psalms and the Song of Songs, reflect Keith's wide-ranging interest in world mysticism. Drawing inspiration from Chilean antipoet Nicanor Parra, in his recent poetry Keith casts a sardonic eye on the modern world.

In 2006 Keith established Attar Books. Initially, this was was to publish his own work, but the concept extended in 2009 when Keith began editing and publishing Peter Calvert's writing. In 2019 Attar Books expanded to publish work by other writers exploring the many facets of contemporary spirituality. Keith continues to work in Aotearoa New Zealand's screen industries.

“Hill’s exposition is a fine example of scrupulously rigorous scholarship—it is remarkable how much ground is covered within his brief historical survey …  An impressive and accessible introduction to a challenging philosophical topic. “ — Kirkus Review

“A tour de force. ... Hill’s humanizing of de Vaca is the ingredient that makes it so moving and once taken up, impossible to put down.” — Alistair Paterson, poet, editor, literary critic

“The Tarjumán al-Aswáq is one of the greatest works of Islamic mystical poetry. Keith Hill’s artful and beautiful renditions will bring Ibn ‘Arabi’s neglected masterpiece to a new readership.” — Nile Green, author of Sufism: A Global History

“In a time that seems spiritually dry for so many, this book of psalms is water in the desert. They challenge, terrify, comfort, and call us to a deep humanity.” — Allan Jones, Dean Emeritus, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

“Keith Hill is a writer in the vein of Karen Armstrong … The prize that celebrates New Zealand’s forward thinkers is thoroughly deserved.” — Mike Alexander, Sunday Star Times

"Hill’s poetry refreshes the meaning of ancient works while also relating age-old struggles to the present day.  Much here to consider and enjoy." — Raewyn Alexander, Magazine

“A scholarly yet accessible book ... Books of this calibre, written and published here in New Zealand, are a rare phenomena. This deserves to be read by all those who care about ideas, the trajectory of civilization and its future form.” — Peter Dornauf,


Keith's non-fiction books have been frequent finalists and winners in the Ashton Wylie Award, New Zealand’s premiere prize for spiritual writing. In 2016, 2019 and 2020 Keith was invited to judge the awards.

2006 … Striving To Be Human … Winner, Best Unpublished Manuscript
2010 … The Bhagavad Gita … Finalist, Best Book
2013 … The God Revolution … Winner, Best Book
2014 … The Matapaua Conversations …. Finalist, Best Book
2015 … Practical Mysticism … Winner, Best Unpublished Manuscript
2017 … The New Mysticism … Runner-Up, Best Book


2020 … Prophecy on the River by Judith Hoch … Finalist, Best Book, Indie Book Awards … Finalist, Best Book, Ashton Wylie Awards
2020 … The Lantern in the Skull by Hugh Major … Finalist, Best Book, Indie Book Awards… Finalist, Best Book, Ashton Wylie Awards
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2002 …This Is Not A Love Story … Winner, Best Screenplay, DancesWithFilms … Finalist, Best Screenplay for Digital Feature, NZ Film Awards … Finalist, Best Actor (Stephen Lovatt), NZ Film Awards


In the 1990s and early 200s Keith produced short films for other filmmakers, several of which won awards.

2001 … Junk, written and directed by Gregory King … Winner, Best Short Film, NZ Film Awards
2003 … Playing a Role, directed by Daniel Strang … Finalist, Best Short Screenplay, NZ Film Awards (Keith co-editor and co-writer)
2004 … From Where I'm Standing … written and directed by Annalise Patterson … Selected to premiere in the Venice Film Festival … Winner Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Short Film, Floating Clouds Film Festival
2004 … No Ordinary Sun, written and directed directed by Jonathan Brough… Winner, Best Short Film, Auckland International Film Festival … Finalist, Best Screenplay for Short, NZ Film Awards
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For nineteen years Keith was a co-director of Rattle Records, developing and releasing albums by NZ composers and musicians working in the genres of world, classical and jazz. Many of these projects were finalists or winners at the annual New Zealand Music Awards.

1998 … You Hit Him He Cry Out, Daniel Poynton … Winner, Best Classical Album
2000 … Rhythm Spike, John Psathas … Winner, Best Classical Album
2001 … Pulse, Jack Body … Winner, Best Classical Album
2003 … Te Ku Te Whe, Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns … Awarded best-selling Gold Album status
2004 … Te Heke-nga-a-rangi, Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns … Finalist, Best Māori Album
2007 … View From Olympus, John Psathas … Winner, Best Classical Album
2007 … Te Whaiao, Various Artists … Winner, Best Māori Album
2008 … Inland, Michael Houstoun … Winner, Best Classical Album
2008 … bright tide moving between … NZTrio, Finalist, Best Classical Album
2010 … Ukiyo, John Psathas … Finalist, Best Classical Album
2011 … Helix, John Psathas … Finalist, Best Classical Album
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