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Curated by the NZ On Screen team
25th July 2009



 NZ On Screen team

Curated by the NZ On Screen team


The call of the mountains

Snow collects together titles celebrating the scenic, recreational and spiritual call of New Zealand's mountains and ice. They include retro ski classics Flare and Off the Edge, Sir Ed saga Kaipo Wall, and NZ's first Oscar nominated film Snows of Aorangi. The collection features everything from ski ballet, Middle Earth glaciers and mountain parrots, to polar ice-fishing. 


The Snow Collection 2012

 Mount Cook - Footsteps to the Sky

From Māori myth to climbing and photography, to gliding around its iconic peak, Aoraki-Mt Cook is vividly captured in this Wild South award-winner. Footsteps re-enacts Tom Fyfe's pioneering route; Sir Ed reminisces about encounters with the mountain; and skier Bruce Grant takes the fast way down.

 Wild September Snow

Complete with hip late 60s voiceover, this NFU short follows three ski instructors on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, followed by a 27 km run down the length of the Tasman Glacier. The skiers are Kiwi Olympians Michael Dennis and Anne Reid, and American Herbie Bleuer.

 Across the Main Divide

This mountain film fest award-winner follows NZ mountain guide Shaun Norman, US telemark champ Whitney Thurlow and German Babette Bodenstein, as they cross the Southern Alps in free heel skis. A 2,000m haul up to Graham Saddle is rewarded with sweet spring snow skiing and cheesecake at Alma Hut.

 Turn of the Century

This film uses substantial archive footage to comprehensively trace the history of NZ skiing and winter sports. From Mannering and Dixon, who used homemade skis in an almost-successful ascent of Mt Cook and the hut-building pioneers of recreational ski clubs, to commercial ski fields and lifts.

 Incredible Mountains

This doco follows a Southern Alps ‘grand slam’ ski series for local and off season northern skiers, organised by Coast to Coast impresario Robin Judkins. Après-ski competing there's a springtime descent down Mt Taranaki. It wouldn't be Kiwi skiing without kea, and the discipline of the inner tube.

 The Adventure World of Graeme Dingle - Episode Five

In this fifth episode of the early 80s outdoor ed series, legendary climber Graeme Dingle teaches the basics of alpine travel to a team of young Kiwis: traversing and belaying on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. There’s an igloo build, self arrest practice, and ultimately, a summiting of the volcano.

 The Years Back - The Big Ice (Episode 12)

New Zealand's relationship with Antarctica and the explorers and scientists who went there is the focus of this episode in The Years Back series. The defiant Sir Edmund Hillary-led 50s polar tractor dash is shown, as well as footage of epic Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton expeditions.

The Snow Collection 2010

 Off the Edge

This snowy Endless Summer follows two adventurers as they ski, hang-glide, climb and delve beneath glaciers. Thrilling footage amidst spectacular Southern Alps scenery saw the legendary film nominated for an Oscar (best documentary, 1977); the LA Times called it "beautiful and awesome".

 The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary - The Kaipo Wall (Part One)

Sir Ed leads an A-Team of mates on an expedition to ascend for the first time Fiordland's remote Kaipo Wall: 1000m of sheer rockface. The Roger Donaldson-filmed mission into the wild sees them tackle white water rapids, extreme mountaineering, dense bush and whiteout blizzards. 

 Kea - Mountain Parrot

This tells the story of the inimitable kea; heralded as the world’s smartest bird and infamous on southern mountains and ski-fields for its deconstructive inquisitiveness. A post on linking to graphic night footage of the ‘avian wolf’ in action (clip four) made this NZ On Screen’s most watched title.

 The Glacier Climbers

This NFU film follows a four-day journey across the Southern Alps, climbing to the "frozen roof of New Zealand" ... with a can of tinned pineapple as reward. The climbers meet Sir Edmund Hillary, Murray Ellis and Harry Ayres at Malte Brun Hut, and they descend together down the Tasman Glacier.

 Emperors of Antarctica

This award-winning film tells the story of Antarctica’s emperor penguin (the inspiration behind Happy Feet) and how it survives vicious blizzards and -50°C. The doco helped establish NHNZ’s relationship with Discovery Channel, and the penguin-falling-through-ice scene (clip one) became a YouTube hit.

 Journeys in National Parks: Westland / Aoraki

In this episode of the Journeys series Peter Hayden travels west to east across two national parks and some of NZ’s most sublime landscapes, from giant, ancient kahikatea forest to creaking glaciers. The episode ends with Hayden climbing Hochstetter Dome with renowned mountaineer Harry Ayres.

 Journey for Three

This NFU dramatised doco was boosterism for postwar immigration. The film shows three Brits' adventures in the new country (tramping, skiing, milk bars, the races, romance). In the final clip, partaking in a dramatic glacier rescue raises Harry's spirits, and assimilates him with the blokes.

 Holiday for Susan

Directed by David Fowler for the NFU, tourism promo Holiday For Susan enthusiastically follows 22-year-old Aussie Susan's tour of Godzone with Kiwi Lorraine Clark. Alongside a jet-set romance plot, the shots of scenic wonder include a stylish mountain-side girl fight with snowballs.

 Under the Ice

This award-winning NHNZ film was the first nature documentary to be filmed under the Antarctic sea ice. Innovative photography reveals the other-worldly beauty of the submarine world, and the surprisingly rich life found in sub-zero temperatures - weddell seals, giant sponge and dragonfish.

 United Travel Show: Clarke and Hayley Holt

In this excerpt from the United Travel-sponsored travel show presenter Clarke Gayford is joined by champion snowboarder (and Dancing with the Stars dancer) Hayley Holt for some heli-snowboarding and an après ski spa and beer. The item features some spectacular backcountry boarding runs.

The Snow Collection 2009

 Flare - A Ski Trip

Freestyle skiers perform a 'ski ballet' at Mount Hutt, Queenstown and Ruapehu. This documentary was directed for the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department by one Sam Neill (who would shortly achieve fame as an actor). Check out the 70s snow-styles and beards. 

 The Leading Edge

In this full length Michael Firth film, a bunch of extreme thrill-seekers throw themselves off volcanoes, glaciers, mountains and into an Iron Man with "get more go" abandon. Notable for its Stuart Drybugh-filmed action sequences (set to an 80s pop soundtrack) and Billy T James as a mad pilot.

 Snows of Aorangi

Legendary photographer Brian Brake captures stunning mountain imagery: ethereal ice forests, lightning storms, volcanic craters, glaciers, avalanches; all set to a James K Baxter-scripted narration. This was the first NZ film to compete for an Oscar, in 1958.

 No Mean Feat

In 2001 cameras followed climber Mark Inglis to Aoraki-Mt Cook, where he tries again to summit the mountain that had earlier taken his legs. A story of courage-against-the-odds, topped off by stunning aerial footage, No Mean Feat won best documentary at the 2003 NZ TV Awards.

 Young Mountains

In this award-winning film, awesome four seasons footage evokes the tenuous richness of life in the geologically dynamic Southern Alps. The world's only mountain parrot (kea), Himalayan thar, and the world's largest buttercup, exist amongst thundering avalanches, wind and creaking glaciers. 

 Extraordinary Kiwis - Clarke in Antarctica

Presenter Clarke Gayford roughs it on the frozen continent with scientist Victoria Metcalf. Dr Metcalf is investigating how fish survive in such extreme cold and takes Gayford (self-described "sook in the cold") ice-fishing amongst the seals and stark white scenery.

 Hillary Returns

Following the conquest of Mt Everest, Sir Ed, with fellow Kiwi George Lowe, arrives in Auckland to a hero's welcome. In this newsreel he muses about the last challenging step (soon to be named 'Hillary's Step') and the suitability of the Southern Alps as preparation for knocking the bastard off.

 Weekly Review No. 267 - Winter Sports at Mount Cook

This jaunty early NFU film includes slalom at the 1946 New Zealand ski champs, ice-skating at Lake Tekapo, and comic pratfalls in the snow. It features the expected majestic mountains, glaciers, and avalanches, as well as curious kea at Ball Hut, and amusing dogs in snow-glasses.

 Wildlife of the Mountains

This classic National Film Unit documentary explores the alpine flora and fauna in the Upper Waitaki. Mount Cook lilies, karearea (falcon - our fastest bird), whio (blue duck), kererū, and cheeky kea are featured alongside introduced deer, chamois, and thar, which have become pests. 

 The Snowline is Their Boundary

The challenges of farming the vast stations on the rugged aprons of the Southern Alps are captured in this NFU documentary, beautifully shot by photographer Brian Brake. The centrepiece is the great autumn muster where shepherds and dogs work 16,000 sheep down from "the tops".  

 Tongariro National Park

This promotional film showcases Tongariro National Park, from dandy days at the Chateau for bowls and moonlit mountain jazz; to Ketatahi springs, the crater lake, trout fishing, and skiing on Mount Ruapehu where "the only sound in the white stillness is the hiss of the tips streaking into the snow".

 ICE - Mortality (Episode Four)

An excerpt from this five part series in which Marcus Lush spends a month on the sub-zero polar plains of Antarctica and explores the history, wildlife and environment. The show celebrates the NZ connections, from the heroic, historic quests of Scott and Amundsen, to Scott base. 

 Weekly Review No. 416 - Prelude to Aspiring

Directed and filmed by photographer Brian Brake this film follows a group of climbers up the Matukituki Valley, for the opening of a new hut and a trudge through snow to resurrect a flattened shelter high up Mt French. The autumn alpine scenery is breathtaking even in black and white.

The Mountains

The Mountains

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand entry on the history and stories of the mountains that are NZ's rocky spine.

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