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By NZ On Screen team
14th February 2012



 NZ On Screen team

By NZ On Screen team


Sure to Rise

As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise. 


Christchurch on screen

 Christchurch - Garden City of New Zealand

This post-war promotional travelogue depicts Christchurch as a prosperous city, confident in its green and pleasant self-image as a "better Britain" and dominated by its cathedrals, churches and schools. Many of these buildings were severely damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

 Games 74

Though a range of events (including famous runs by John Walker and Dick Tayler), are covered, this NFU chronicle of the Commonwealth Games often bypasses the pomp and glory; daring to talk to the injured and defeated. The closing ceremonies feature the athletes gathering to "join together".

 Canterbury is a Hundred

This booster's gem marks Canterbury's centennial. The original crusaders' dream of a model England colony is re-created, and a progressive 'meat and wheat' narrative underpins contemporary scenes (cricket, church) and much bucolic scenery. Trivia: an excerpt from the film features in the opening of Heavenly Creatures.

 The Mainland Touch - Excerpts

Mainland Touch was a popular 80s regional news magazine programme. Here Christchurch Botanic Gardens welcome the arrival of spring with a daffodil festival; The Wizard battles Telecom over the colour of phone boxes; punting on the Avon is extended; and a cockatoo hitches a ride in the garden city!

 A Shocking Reminder

While documenting the effects of the 4 September quake, Christchurch company Paua Productions found themselves overtaken by a second quake. This two-part documentary follows some of those who have to deal with the aftermath, over the period of a year.

 Praise Be - Christchurch Cathedral Special

Host Graeme Thomson visits Christchurch's Anglican cathedral for TVNZ's long-running religious and choral music show. Before its devastation by earthquakes, the cathedral was the city centre and the most celebrated of its gothic buildings: "the most accessible and best known church in New Zealand".


'Victoria' was the song that began it all for The Exponents. Instead of the usual 80s-era TVNZ studio cheapie, it's a film clip, with Christchurch night-life scenes (including the Arts Centre and the deco apartments opposite), doomed blonde and fresh-faced Jordan Luck.

 When a City Falls

Christchurch local Gerard Smyth's acclaimed feature-length documentary about the earthquakes is the story of people coping with the huge physical and emotional toll that the quakes, and continuing aftershocks, inflicted on them, their homes and their city. 

 Media7 - Series Seven, Episode 13

This Media 7 episode examines how Christchurch is dealing with the quakes' aftermath. The CEISMIC digital archive's work to preserve the experiences of Cantabrians is profiled; CERA CEO Roger Sutton talks about the key role of media relations; and Gerard Smyth talks about the filming of When a City Falls.

 The Elegant Shed - Behind the Garden

Dapper NZ architecture tour guide David Mitchell looks at the post-war 'Christchurch Style'. He focuses on the "brutalism" of Miles Warren (Town Hall, Christ's College hostels) and the "flamboyant" practice of Peter Beaven (the earthquake victims SBS House, and Lyttelton Tunnel's "fifth ship").

 That's Country

Punk rock was breaking and musical styles changing, but in NZ country music was appointment viewing at 7 on Saturday nights. The show was filmed in Christchurch Town Hall’s James Hay Theatre, and featured both local and international talent. That's Country was hosted by one-time pop star Ray Columbus.


A Texan stops by "One Day At The Coffee Bar", and confronted by kaftan-wearing, pot-smoking beatniks, tries to enjoy a cuppa. Costuming and knowingly hammy performances afford this promo legendary status. The location is Christchurch's once hallowed, now long-gone Victorian Coffee Lounge.

 The Son of a Gunn Show

Christchurch production The Son of a Gunn Show was a popular 90s after school links show for kids. It was hosted by the irrepressible Jason Gunn who wrangled proceedings with the help of alien puppet sidekick Thingee. The duo and assorted guests played 'in loco parentis' to a generation of Kiwi kids.

 The Games Affair

Set in the lead-up to the 1974 Commonwealth Games, this thriller fantasy series follows three teenagers who battle a miscreant professor who's experimenting on athletes with performance enhancing drugs. Remembered fondly by many who were kids in the 70s, it was NZ telly's first children's serial.

 Pictorial Parade No. 123

"New Zealand congratulates Peter Snell, one of the fastest men in the world." The legendary athlete sets two world records on the grass track at Lancaster Park, in the 800 yards and half mile. He reflects on a trip to Milford Sound, and champion coach Arthur Lydiard is interviewed.

 Radio with Pictures - South Island Music

RWP reporter Brent Hansen (later the head of MTV Europe) visits the South Island: checking venues, talking to local luminaries, catching live bands and taking the pulse of the music scene. Flying Nun is in the ascendancy and Christchurch is in flux waiting on the next big pop act to emerge ...

 Pop Co Special

This was the 1974 end of year special for this Christchurch-based music show, with acts performing in and around the Garden City, where lurex and glam rock meet the Avon. The cast includes Steve Gilpin, Rob Guest, Space Waltz, Annie Whittle, Rockinghorse, Mark Williams, Beaver, and ... Drut.

 Chimney Book

Musician Blair Parkes explores his experiences of post-quake Christchurch in this part-diary, part experimental short film. Parkes took bricks from his crumbled chimney, painted a letter or symbol on each, then scanned them into his computer. 

 Shazam! - Mockers Special

Phillip Schofield introduces the Mockers at this benefit concert at the Christchurch Town Hall (later broadcast on music show Shazam!). Their first album has just gone Top 10 and the band are fast becoming pop stars. Andrew Fagan is resplendent in red frock coat and bare chest.

 McPhail and Gadsby

Following hit satire show A Week of It, Cantabrian comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their dream run with this Christchurch-produced sketch comedy show. It aired for seven years, and included McPhail's famous caricature of then-Prime Minister Sir Robert "Piggy" Muldoon.

 What Now? - 30th Birthday Show

NZ telly's longest running children's show turns 30 with a two hour, live extravaganza; for most of the show's life it's been based in Christchurch. Current hosts are joined by past presenters who reminisce, and vie to find the show's best decade amongst the cupcakes, gunge, fart jokes and mayhem.

 Heavenly Creatures

The acclaimed movie that saw splatter-king Peter Jackson lauded by a whole new audience was born from Fran Walsh's long fascination with the Parker-Hulme case: two 50s Christchurch teenagers who became enthralled in an imaginary world, and in June 1954 murdered Parker's mother in Victoria Park.

 Aftermath - Triumph of the City (Episode Five)

The fifth episode of this series from local company Paua Productions looks at the mammoth post-quake rebuild, and explores competing tensions felt by politicians, planners, developers and citizens to fix the past, look ahead and (re)create a city that is as safe as possible.

 Pictorial Parade No. 56

This 1956 edition of the NFU series looks at the ‘Cathedral in the Square’. Canon Orange and Dean Sullivan are tour guides exploring the church and its history, including the role of Christchurch’s first bishop: Henry Harper. A service for Queen Elizabeth II, on her coronation tour, is shown.

 Alligator Song

With its instructive "do the alligator" lyric, this song is a Bill Direen favourite. The moody video's locus is an exotic dancer in Christchurch's back alleys, reflecting Direen's work with Blue Ladder Theatre. The location was badly damaged in the February 2011 quake.

 She Speeds

A triumph of creativity over budget, this now classic Jonathan Ogilvie clip cost just $250 to make. Coloured cellophane and a projector created the psychedelic look on the band members' under-water heads, and the performance shots were done on the back of a truck going through the Lyttelton tunnel.

 Norwester - Wind of Contrasts

This Wild South documentary charts the progress of the famous nor'west wind, from its formation in the Tasman Sea, over West Coast rainforest, across the Southern Alps to the east coast and the hot, dry Canterbury Plains. Along the way it explores the mysterious effect the wind can have on humans.

 Heartland - Lyttelton

Gary McCormick heads to the port town of Lyttelton, where he explores a freighter and talks to a smorgasboard of passionate locals, (some of whom wish yuppies from Christchurch would stay home). Matt Bowkett captures evocative footage from the surrounding hills, and among the action of a busy port.

 Block of Wood

Jonathan Ogilvie's clip for Flying Nun veterans The Bats features a chainsaw of Damocles, a ventriloquist's dummy — and a sadly lost Christchurch location. The distinctive, triangular ANZ Bank Chambers (the band members play on the balconies) and surrounds were devastated in the city's earthquakes.

 A Week of It

Written and produced in Christchurch in the late 70s, this pioneering political satire show took an irreverent look at issues of the day (Muldoon, sporting contact with South Africa, traffic cops, dawn raids, weather girls and te reo etc) and introduced “Jeez Wayne” as a national catchphrase.

 Britten: Backyard Visionary

During the late 1980s, Cantabrian inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway, where, in 1992, as an unlikely underdog, he proceeded to beat the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world.

 Eyewitness - Punk

TVNZ journalist (and future Communicado founder) Neil Roberts turns youth culture ethnomusicologist to explore NZ's fledgling punk scene. Much of the focus is on Auckland but Doomed lead singer (and future TV presenter/producer) Johnny Abort (aka Dick Driver) flies the flag for the south.

 The Frighteners

Shot in and around Lyttelton (as a US small-town), Peter Jackson's Hollywood calling card is a playful blend of comedy and supernatural horror. Exorcist Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) runs a supernatural scam, but things get frantic in Fairwater when a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals.

 Moa's Ark : Building the Ark

'Moa's Ark' set sail 80 million years ago. David Bellamy becomes an ancient mariner and retraces the geological voyage of the islands of New Zealand and discovers 'Shaky Isles' geography and botany as he competes in the famous annual Coast to Coast race over the Southern Alps to Sumner Beach.

 Anything Could Happen

Skinny suits, round sunglasses, performances aping Monkees' moves with the dial tuned to the 'deadpan'. Rubbish dump. Derelict building. Cemetery. Check. The Christchurch locations resonate post-quake, but the clip stands alone as an iconic tribute to indie nihilism. Directed by TVNZ's Andrew Shaw.

 Five Days in the Red Zone

This documentary follows a rural drink-drive squad arriving in Christchurch after the 22 February quakes to assist rescue efforts. The three policemen from Alexandra confront unimagined destruction, ongoing aftershocks and the human face of the tragedy. 

 Norwester - Wind of Contrasts

This Wild South doco, made by TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, charts the progress of the nor'west wind from its formation in the Tasman Sea, across the Southern Alps to the Canterbury Plains, showing the wind's impact on the ecosystem and farming and the mysterious effect it can have on humans.

 After School

Made-in-Christchurch After School was a hosted links format that screened on weekday afternoons. Its initial host was pioneering Māori presenter Olly Ohlson, who is remembered by a generation of New Zealanders for the catchphrase (with accompanying sign language) "Keep cool till after school".

 Lovely Rita

This Gaylene Preston-directed documentary explores the relationship between the work and life of artist Rita Angus. In this excerpt Sam Neill and others explore NZ "favourite painting", Cass, an iconic depiction of the landscape surrounding a Canterbury railway station.

 She's a Mod

Not exactly a music video, more a proto-type. The pioneering promo for the Kiwi classic, for one of Christchurch's first major pop acts, was taken from a 1964 slot on the Aussie TV show Bandstand. It's black and white and basic, but accented with zoot suits; high slung guitars, and the 'mod's nod'.

 Three New Zealanders: Ngaio Marsh

This documentary is based around a lively interview with internationally acclaimed crime-writer, Shakespearean director, and Cantabrian, Dame Ngaio Marsh. There are bonus comments from former students and friends, and re-enactments from her novels and plays (with the Blerta crew as players, and John Bach as Hamlet!).


Set "Somewhere in Canterbury" — a nod to Scribe’s hometown — this promo sets off a breakneck clip (100 cuts in 60 seconds). Director Chris Graham's sense of pace and timing — there's even a coconuts-as-horse-hooves rhythm section — propel the hip hop crusader and his horsemen into the stratosphere.

 The Carmelites

This NZBC religious programme goes where TV cameras had never gone before: behind the walls of the Carmelite monastery in Christchurch. There, it finds a community of 16 Catholic nuns, members of a 400-year-old order, who have shut themselves off from the outside world to lead monastic lives.

 Early Days Yet

In this doco on Allen Curnow, made in the last months of his life, the Christchurch-raised poet revisits poems and places, including his famous musing in front of a moa skeleton in Canterbury Museum: "Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here."

 Circuits of Gold

Speedway driver Ivan Mauger powered and slid his bike to a record six individual world speedway titles. Here interviews with Mauger and his family recall his career. Regarding boy racer beginnings, he muses that in Spain the heroes are bullfighters, but in Christchurch they were speedway riders.

 Blue Lady

This Hello Sailor performance was recorded by TVNZ at the Civic Theatre in Manchester Street (later a casualty of the February 2011 earthquake). Though Graham Brazier wrote the song in 15 minutes it was their second Top 20 single of 1977. 'Blue Lady' was junkie slang for a hypodermic syringe.

 Sand Man

On New Brighton beach in Christchurch artist Peter Donnelly draws elaborate artworks in the sand using a rake and a piece of wood (700+ to date). Beautifully shot by director Peter Young, this Artsville documentary captures Donnelly both in action, and musing on the beauty of impermanence.

 Spring Flames

The 1947 Ballantynes Department Store fire claimed 41 lives - the city's biggest single disaster until the 2011 earthquake. The events of that spring day are explored in this short film which intersperses archive footage with a fictional account of workers and customers in the tailoring department.

 Gutter Black

Hello Sailor perform the first single from their debut album at the Civic Theatre, Manchester Street. The Dave McArtney song, (a "whiteman's attempt to play that ska rocksteady beat") took on a new lease of life in 2005 as the theme song for Outrageous Fortune.

 Pictorial Parade No. 8 - New Zealand Celebrates Coronation

The Cathedral Bells ring out in Christchurch as NZ celebrates Elizabeth II's coronation. It's "God save the Queen" all around: inside the cathedral, in the private chapel at Longbeach Estate (near Ashburton) and in the picturesque St James church below Franz Josef Glacier.

 Join Together - The New Zealand Commonwealth Games Story

This TVNZ doco chronicles NZ participation in 18 Empire and Commonwealth Games. A cavalcade of gold medallists recall their glory days and emphasis is placed on the three NZ-hosted Games: at Auckland in 1950 and 1990, and Christchurch in 1974 (which hastened the local arrival of colour television).

 Heartland - Fendalton

Gary McCormick visits Fendalton, where he takes tea and sandwiches on the lawn with elderly resident Bessie Seymour Parker (archetypal 'rounded vowels' abound); visits homesteads and English country gardens; and meets private school teenagers, as the suburb lives up to its 'posh' reputation.

 It's Lizzie to those Close

In this tele-movie tale of a colonial English servant woman doing it hard down under, Lizzie (Sarah Peirse, who won a Feltex) finds herself trapped on a rundown Canterbury sheep farm alongside three men: one mean, one silent, and one simple-minded (Bruno Lawrence, in one of his favourite roles).


For her first feature, Gillian Ashurst wanted a "big wide road movie; big skies; big long roads." Cruising the Canterbury landscapes are small-town dreamers Alice (Heavenly Creature Melanie Lynskey) and Johnny (Almighty Johnson Dean O'Gorman). The duo's adventures go awry when they meet a charming American cowboy.

 Our People Our Century - A Piece of Land

This episode of the 20th Century survey series covers stories of Kiwis and their turangawaewae: a piece of land they call their own. The importance of the land to farming families, and to the economy of NZ is explored through the five generations of the Elworthy family farming in South Canterbury.

“... a feeling of loss winds through this collection.”

“... a feeling of loss winds through this collection.”

Media commentator Russell Brown introduces the collection: mourning and celebrating the city, as seen on screen. Read more >

160 years to build, 24 seconds to rip down

160 years to build, 24 seconds to rip down

A and The Press special feature reflects on a city that changed forever when the earth shook on 22 February 2011. Read more >

Ceismic monitoring

Ceismic monitoring

'Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive' is a repository of quake-related video, audio, documents and images. Check it out >

City of the Plains

City of the Plains

Te Ara's entry on Canterbury provides a comprehensive introduction to its places, landscapes, people and history. Read more >

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Many thanks to the content rights holders, especially Archives New Zealand for the titles from National Film Unit collection. More info>