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The Sheep Collection

Selected by the NZ On Screen team
21st September 2009

 The Sheep Collection

The Sheep Collection

 NZ On Screen team

Selected by the NZ On Screen team



New Zealand is said to have earned its prosperity "off the sheep's back" and our relationship with sheep is a renowned and intimate one (as many a sheep shagger joke attests). The national flock has dropped recently but we still have a hellava lot of them (40 million). This collection features 16 titles celebrating and sometimes making fun of Kiwis and our ovine kin.


The Sheep Collection

 Godzone Sheep

This documentary is a wry tribute to all things ovine in New Zealand culture. David Geary, Chris Knox, Dick Frizell, Michael Parekowhai and others pull the wool away from our collective eyes and examine NZ's much-ridiculed relationship with sheep. It features woolly art, tourist toys and shows, and songs and plays.

 Shearing Technique

Legendary shearer Godfrey Bowen runs through the 'blows' (strokes) of his innovative shearing technique in this 1957 National Film Unit instructional film. From the days when, as the narration says, "wool [was] so important to New Zealand's posterity ... and to the warmth of the world!” 

 A Dog's Show - 1981 Final

Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. In each sheepdog trial a farmer, armed with an array of whistles and commands, instructed a sheepdog to wrangle a flock of recalcitrant sheep along a course or into a pen. Long-running host John Gordon provides the commentary.

 40 Years of Country Calendar

Edited highlights, culled from 40 seasons of the longest running show on New Zealand television. The typical patient observational style allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold. There is footage of high country musters, floods, tobacco farming and a dog that is said to be radio-controlled.

 Country Calendar - Spoofs Special

This special episode collects the best of the Country Calendar spoofs, including the the fencing wire-playing farmer, the radio-controlled dog, “stress-free” sheep farming, Arctic grass, and more malarkey besides. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes.

 Black Sheep

When inept eco-activists release a mutant lamb from a laboratory, thousands of sheep are turned into bloodthirsty predators. Three hapless humans are stranded in a woolly nightmare. Director Jonathan King executes genre thrills and tips over a few sacred cows in his well-received debut feature.

 The Pen

Ovine raconteurs Robert and Sheepy made their debut in 2001. Animator Guy Capper and Jemaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement's stop motion duo stood out from the flock in the trans-Tasman Nescafe Short Film Awards (sharing first prize), and later screened as a segment in sketch show Radiradirah.

 The Snowline is Their Boundary

Beautifully shot, by renowned photographer Brian Brake, this National Film Unit classic captures the challenges of farming the vast stations on the rugged aprons of the Southern Alps. "It's mutton every meal out here - we chase sheep every day and eat them every meal."

 About Face: The Lamb of God

Two decades before the GE lambs of Black Sheep run amok, comes this Sunday night horror about a couple trapped in the countryside as the sheep get restless. Directed by Costa Botes and scripted by Piers Davies, (who co-wrote cult movie The Cars that Ate Paris, with Australian Peter Weir).

 Woolly Valley - Series One Compilation

The magpie quardle oodled and the narration declared: “Welcome to Woolly Valley” in the intro to this low-tech kid’s TV puppet show. Familiar to a generation of Kiwi kids, it follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally, long-suffering wife Beattie, and their talking lamb.


Toss is an 11-year old girl living on a remote hill country farm. While out with her father herding sheep, he falls and is killed. An interloper arrives amongst the mud, hawks and carcasses in this gothic coming of age tale. Woolly Valley this is not. Vincent Ward’s debut was the first NZ film selected for competition at Cannes.


This National Film Unit doco looks at the relationship between dogs and shepherds in Kiwi sheep farming. This Swanndri-saturated doco is shot, scored and narrated in classic Disney style, revealing Dog Show-worthy secrets on the way. As the title states, the canines are the stars.


 Footrot Flats

This ‘making of’ doco goes behind the scenes of New Zealand’s first animated feature, based on characters from the beloved farmstyle cartoon strip, Murray Ball's Footrot Flats. The trailer is cut to the Dave Dobbyn-Herbs song 'Slice of Heaven' which, like the film, was a huge hit in NZ and Australia.

 Eating Media Lunch - Best Of (Episode)

This show satirised mainstream media, from “issues of the day” journalism to the society pages. The 2nd excerpt featured here mocks the martyrdom of the “maverick merino” Shrek, the high country rogue who became a 2004 international media phenomenon for his clipper-evading fleece.

 Good Taste Made Bad Taste

This behind-the-scenes doco shows some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his breakthrough first feature film. The film utilizes production stills, interviews with the key cast, and the now iconic sheep-as-collateral-damage bazooka sequence.


This Stuart Page bombshell is arguably the pièce de résistance of NZ music video art. Publicly screened only a handful of times, AFFCO goes behind the scenes at the abattoir to notorious effect. Page: “The song was written purely about some guys who 'pack meat' and the video was made in that light. I guess we got carried away [...]”

 Good Intentions

In this short film Peter Wells makes a personal "Postcard from New Zealand" for Channel Four (UK). It features a costume for the Sydney Mardi Gras that includes budgie smugglers with 'NZ' sequined into them, a Southern Cross singlet, and ugg-glove sheep puppets. "Dame Edna would've loved it".

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"Off the sheep's back"

Read the Te Ara entry on sheep farming for the history, stories, statistics and people of the industry.