Janet Frame (1924 - 2004) is an icon of New Zealand literature and her international reputation rests on an original, "edge of the alphabet" use of language. She was twice rumoured to be short-listed for the Nobel Prize, and was acclaimed as "one of the great writers of our time" (San Francisco Chronicle). Her life and work have notably been translated to screen. 

Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination. Janet Frame, in her book The Envoy from Mirror City (volume one)

Wrestling with the Angel

2004, Subject - Television

A documentary about author Janet Frame based on the eponymous biography by Michael King. It travels through the familiar Frame themes - her alleged mental illness, family tragedies, overseas stays, how she began writing. Its value, and fresh insight, lies in the interviews with Frame's close friends and key figures in her life. They shed light on her personality and achievements. King in particular provides a considered, often-amusing account of Frame's life. This was his last interview for film; he was killed in a car accident in 2004.


Holmes - Janet Frame

2000, Subject - Television

This excerpt from Holmes features a rare interview with author Janet Frame, filmed in 2000 to mark the release of Michael King's Frame biography, Wrestling with the Angel. Reporter John Sellwood visited Frame at her Dunedin home, along with King, who is also interviewed, and provides some valuable perspective on Frame's writing. Sellwood charmed Frame by playing the bagpipes, which reminded her of her father, but she is still a reluctant interviewee, who prefers to chat about lighter topics than reflect on her distinguished literary career. 


An Angel at My Table

1990, Original Author - Film

Directed by Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table is adapted from author Janet Frame's renowned three-part autobiography. It threads together a series of images and scenes to evoke Frame's dramatic life story. Originally made as a TV drama, the much-acclaimed dramatisation won cinema release in 35 countries, establishing Campion as an international director, launching actress Kerry Fox, and introduced new audiences to the "mirror city" of Frame's writing. This excerpt follows Frame's life-saving escape from Seacliff Asylum, to first publishing success at Frank Sargeson’s bach.


A State of Siege

1978, Original Author - Short Film

A State of Siege is the story of a retired art teacher dealing with isolation and loneliness, culminating in a stormy, terrifying night. Vincent Ward's acclaimed short — adapted from a Janet Frame novel — was made when he was at Ilam art school. The Evening Post called the taut tale "the most sensitive and intelligent film that has ever been made in New Zealand". San Francisco Chronicle praised: "Ward creates more horror in this low budget movie with his play of light and shadow than Stanley Kubrick was able to create in the whole of The Shining."


Three New Zealanders

1975, Subject - Television

This three-part documentary series was made to mark International Women's Year in 1975; it  provides rare and precious interview footage with three of New Zealand's most celebrated writers; Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh; who each reflect on their life and philosophy. In the case of Ashton-Warner and Marsh, these documentaries were filmed in the last decade of their lives. Three New Zealanders was produced by John Barnett for Endeavour Films. 


Three New Zealanders: Janet Frame

1975, Subject - Television

This fresh, unhurried film is drawn from a substantial interview with renowned writer Janet Frame by Michael Noonan; filmed largely at at Frame’s then-home on Whangaparoa Peninsula. It was part of the Three New Zealanders series made to commemorate the 1975 International Year of Women — an early John Barnett production. The rare footage of Frame — here aged 50 — presents a confident writer in her prime, and negates any stereotypes about Frame's inarticulacy or shyness. Note: the segments from the programme dramatising some of Frame’s work are not included here.