The Horse Collection

This collection celebrates all things equine on New Zealand screens. Since the early days of the colony, horses have been everything from nation builders (Cobb & Co) to national heroes (Phar Lap, Charisma) to companions (Black Beauty) to heartland icons. Whether work horse, war horse, wild horse, or show pony, horses have become a key part of this (Kiwi) way of life.

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Hunchin' Down the Track

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

Rodeo thrills and spills — Kiwi style — are on display in this doco following two cowboys travelling the circuit in a '50s Chrysler. They compete in events in Fairlie, Rerewhakaaitu and Warkworth, and encounter American stars along the way. Broncos, calves and bulls are ridden, wrestled or roped; but pride of place goes to spectacular shots of them using rodeo skills to capture deer by helicopter. Cowboy up indeed. A parade, the 'Cowboy's Prayer' and fearless rodeo clowns also feature. Geoff Dixon (future founder of production company Silverscreen) directs.

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Tales From Te Papa - Phar Lap

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

Phar Lap — the pavlova of the equine world — is the subject of this episode in a series looking at some of Te Papa’s holdings. Bred and trained in New Zealand, he spent most of his outstanding racing career in Australia (before dying in suspicious circumstances in California) and is regarded as a national treasure on both sides of the Tasman. His fate reflects those claims, with his skeleton at Te Papa, his hide in Melbourne and his heart in Canberra. This mini-doco backgrounds Phar Lap’s life and includes some of the scarce footage available of him.

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Bred to Win

Short Film, 1968 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit documentary looks at thoroughbred racehorse breeding in NZ, an industry appraised as producing "the world's finest racing thoroughbreds" (eg. 1966 Melbourne Cup winner Galilee). Made when racing could be described as our "national sport" the film visits leading stud farms (such as Trelawney) to follow the life of a foal, from its birth through yearling sales and training, to Wellington Cup race day when roads are gridlocked with "a congregation whose bible is a racing almanac". Footage includes a 'good citizenship' school for jockeys.

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Heartland - Riverton Races

Television, 1994 (Excerpts)

Occasional Heartland host Kerre Woodham visits the annual Easter races at Riverton in Southland. Riverton is New Zealand's second oldest town, and the close knit locals have a big passion for horse-racing. Woodham talks to owners, trainers, jockeys and punters, as well as the judges of 'Best Dressed Lady at the Races', who are looking for a nice line in matching hats, bags, shoes and gloves. The documentary contains some good examples of the Southland rolled 'R' from some of the locals who are interviewed.

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This Way of Life

Film, 2009 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Filmed over four years, This Way of Life documents the story of Hawkes Bay hunter and horse wrangler Peter Ottley-Karena, wife Colleen (Ngāti Maniapoto), and their six children. Intercut with Peter's articulate bush philosophy, it captures the family's romantic, dignified relationship to each other and to the natural world. Ever-present amongst the challenges their commitment to a 'simple life' faces is Peter's broken relationship with his step-father. Life received a special mention at the Berlin Film Festival; Variety called it "resonant and stunningly shot".

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Wild Horse Wild Country

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

This NHNZ documentary looks at the fierce debate between animal lovers and ecologists over the wild horses of the Kaimanawa Ranges (with striking footage of them running free). At issue: a delicate tussock land ecosystem with rare native plants dating back thousands of years increasingly at risk from horses recognised for their uniqueness — but whose numbers have grown tenfold in 15 years. Reducing the herd size is the favoured option, but only younger horses can be sold and, with older ones going to an abattoir, the plan is opposed by the horse lobby.

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bro'Town - Honky the Wonder Horse

Television, 2005 (Full Length Episode)

Hit animated comedy series bro'Town was born from the poly-saturated comedy of theatre group The Naked Samoans. This episode from the second series sees the boys taking on a cast-off racehorse called Honky, and with help (and hindrance) from Vale and Valea's gambling-addicted father, training him to race in the Morningside Cup. Valea faces up to his horse phobia to ride Honky on the big day. Meanwhile special subtitles help explain what this horse is really thinking.

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Workhorse to Dreamhorse

Television, 2001 (Excerpts)

The major contribution made by horses to New Zealand’s development is investigated in this Bryan Bruce documentary – from the first to arrive (a stallion brought by missionary Samuel Marsden in 1814) to equestrian gold medallists and sires of Melbourne Cup winners in more recent years. This excerpt features extensive archive footage of some of the 10,000 horses sent to Europe and the Middle East during World War I (with only four returning); and talks to one of the last milk vendors to use a horse and cart (only retired with very mixed feelings in 1984).

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty - Ride a Black Horse

Television, 1990 (Excerpts)

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in New Zealand and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the fourth episode sees Vicky striving to convince the postmasters (Bill Kerr and Ilona Rodgers) that she and Beauty can be posties; and she faces hostility from local kids (including a young Claire Chitham).

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Wild Horses

Film, 1984 (Excerpts)

Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses threatening ecology and traffic. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a fabled silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues. In the notoriously fraught production a stable of Kiwi acting legends perform a melange of western and freedom-on-the-range genre turns (with the conservationists oddly set up as the bad guys).

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The Snowline is Their Boundary

Short Film, 1955 (Full Length)

"For the farmers of the high country the snowline is their boundary" begins the narration to this National Film Unit documentary. Beautifully shot by Brian Brake, the challenges of farming the vast stations on the rugged aprons of the Southern Alps are captured. The centrepiece is the great autumn muster where shepherds and dogs work 16,000 sheep down from "the tops" over 100,000 acres of peaks and glaciers before the snow and winter blizzards arrive. "It's mutton every meal out here - we chase sheep every day and eat them every meal." 

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Charlie Horse

Television, 1978 (Full Length)

A personal film diary by actor Martyn Sanderson showing the breaking-in and training of a young colt in rural Hawke's Bay. It was made when Sanderson was a vital part of the gang of Blerta creatives who based themselves at Waimarama Beach in the 1970s. Some stunning ‘wild horses' imagery is captured (shot by Sanderson and cinematographer Alun Bollinger) and narration is intriguingly provided from audience comments recorded at a local screening of the footage. It features music by Chris Seresin, Bruno Lawrence and Patrick Bleakley.

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Heartland - Omarama

Television, 1993 (Excerpts)

Heartland host Gary McCormick visits South Island town Omarama, which is "about as remote as you can get in New Zealand, as it sits in the centre of the South Island at its widest point." McCormick talks to sheep farmers battling pest rabbits and the invasive weed Heiracium Hawkweed, checks out a fishing competition, and attends the Omarama Rodeo. At the rodeo he meets the Church family of rodeo riding brothers, listens to a spot of yodelling, and takes in the children's sheep riding display.

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The New Zealand Thoroughbred

Short Film, 1950 (Full Length)

This short film looks at New Zealand's thoroughbred scene in its post-war boom period. In 1950 New Zealand boasted the most thoroughbreds in the world by population, 200 stallions and 5000 brood mares. Some of the most famous sires of the time are featured as the film makers visit the leading studs of the day. The film begins with the outdoor birth of a foal at Alton Lodge (then owned by industrialist Sir James Fletcher and his son); and also visits Inglewood, near Christchurch: the oldest thoroughbred stud still standing a stallion in New Zealand.

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The Promise - Sir Tristram's Story

Television, 1996 (Excerpts)

This documentary tells the story of how an unpromising horse with a nasty personality became the greatest thoroughbred stud stallion in New Zealand racing history. Interviews and archive footage are used to tell the entwined histories of Sir Tristram and his owner, Cambridge-based breeder Patrick Hogan. The path to success involves fires, potentially disastrous injuries, a $32 million buy offer, and special precautions every time Sir Tristram was taken out of his paddock for breeding.

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Ellerslie - First Episode

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

The membership is aging, the roof leaks, the phone and computer systems are outdated and the kitchen needs a major upgrade. Chris Weaver comes from a brewery background, but he’s the new CEO of the Auckland Racing Club, and these are just some of the challenges facing him as he attempts to rebuild the club (while a TV crew follows him in the first episode of this seven-part series about NZ’s oldest racing club). He has high hopes ‘Whips and Spurs’ – race meetings with bands and DJs – will start attracting the under-35s, but the weather forecast isn’t good.

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Hunter's Gold - First Episode

Television, 1976 (Full Length Episode)

This classic kids’ adventure series follows a 13-year-old boy on a quest to find his father, missing amidst the heady 1860s Otago gold rush. Under the reins of producer John McRae, it brandished unprecedented production values, and panned the Central Otago vistas for all their worth. Its huge local popularity was matched abroad (BBC screened it primetime); it showed that NZ-made kids’ drama could be successfully exported. This first episode sees plucky Scott Hunter (Andrew Hawthorn) steal away to Tucker’s Valley, spurred on by his doubting uncle.

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Sensitive to a Smile

Herbs, Music Video, 1987

Herbs visited sometimes-troubled town Ruatoria in 1987 bringing music and aroha, and leaving with a mini-documentary and this evocative music video. A beautiful video for a beautiful song (about beautiful people). Lee Tamahori, of Once Were Warriors fame, was co-director, and the clip won Best Music Video at the 1987 New Zealand Music Awards.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Film, 2003 (Trailer)

Monstrous spiders, dragon-aided epic battles, endangered hobbits and final farewells ... the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy boldly upped the ante. Although the first two films had excited viewers, critics and accountants, Return of the King sealed Peter Jackson's place in movie legend. Reviewers praised it with gusto and Return won a staggering 11 Oscars, a total matched only by Titanic and Ben-Hur. Return anointed a Hollywood empire in the Wellington suburb of Miramar; the box office figures weren't half bad, and nor was the effect on NZ tourism.

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The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil

Short Film, 1986 (Full Length)

Bob Stenhouse worked largely alone to visualise this richly-animated ode to the "nation of drunkards" (as New Zealand was tagged in the House of Lords in 1838). A shepherd tricks a Mackenzie barman out of a bottle of ‘Hokonui Lightning', but too much pioneer spirit sees him haunted by the devil's daughter (or a case of delirium tremens). The Chicago Tribune praised the film's macabre humour and "lushly conceived" visuals. In 1986 it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short; the same year, it won the Grand Prize at Canada's Hamilton International Animation Festival.

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Papa People

Bressa Creeting Cake, Music Video, 1997

The original concept involved a girl in love with a weta. Sadly the weta has an affair with a horse. Consequently the girl tries to metamorphosise into an insect to be with her love... of course.   "In the end I don't think anyone really gets the story. But there is a great feeling to the video. My favourite scene is where she walks around a room shutting doors, with a projection of maggots and crawlies all over the walls - it's so spooky and sad and threatening." Band member, Geoff Maddock - Feb 09

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E Tipu E Rea - Te Moemoea (The Dream)

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

The night before his granddaughter's birthday, a grandfather (Anzac Wallace) has a "dream". He then proceeds with the assistance of his wife (Erihapeti Ngata) and wider community to analyse the dream, with the outcome being a win on the horses. The edition of the pioneering E Tipu E Rea series was the first film as director for actor/writer Rawiri Paratene; the screenplay was by Patricia Grace from her own short story, The Dream. Te Moemoea was filmed in Te Reo and English. Look out for a young Temuera Morrison.