Although best known as a writer, Maurice Shadbolt also did time as a filmmaker. In his 20s he made a number of films at the National Film Unit, as part of a career that encompassed fiction, journalism, theatre and two volumes of autobiography. His classic Gallipoli play Once on Chunuk Bair was made into a feature film in 1992.
[B]etween one day and the next [I] determined that I was competent to direct films. I dusted off forgotten projects, found cameramen willing to work, and did. No one seemed to object; or even notice. Maurice Shadbolt on working at the National Film Unit, in his book One of Ben's
This documentary tells the stories of the New Zealand soldiers who were part of the identity-defining Gallipoli campaign in World War I. In the ill-fated mission to take a piece of Turkish coastline, 2721 New Zealanders died with 4752 wounded. As part of research, every one of the then-surviving Gallipoli veterans living in New Zealand was interviewed, with 26 finally filmed. Shot at a barren, rocky Gallipoli before the advent of Anzac Day tourism, this important record screened on Easter Sunday 1984, and won a Feltex Award for Best Documentary.
This feature dramatises an ill-fated offensive that New Zealand soldiers undertook during World War I’s Gallipoli campaign. On 8 August 1915 the Wellington Battalion briefly seized Chunuk Bair, a pivotal peak overlooking the Dardanelles; they suffered huge losses. The film pitches the attack as a formative NZ nationhood moment, with Kiwi guts and resilience countered by inept, careless British generals, as much as their Turkish foes. Filmed on an Avalon set and on the Wainuiomata coast, the story was based on Maurice Shadbolt’s classic play, Once On Chunuk Bair.
Pictorial Parade was a newsreel series produced by the National Film Unit. This trio features 'Salute to Salote,' in which the Queen of Tonga admires the territorial army recruits at Papakura military camp; 'What is Dutch for Easter?' about Dutch settlers who hide painted Easter eggs for the children of Roseneath school; and 'The Life of Opo', which shows priceless footage of Opononi's world-famous dolphin Opo, and her Marlborough Sounds' cousin, Pelorus Jack. Shots of 'gay' Opo tossing bottles and frolicking with swimmers, are set to a jaunty ditty.
Author Maurice Shadbolt went before the cameras to play father to the main character, in this adaptation of his acclaimed coming of age novel. Teen Nick (Paul O’Shea) is estranged from his family, and blaming himself for his Māori mate's climbing death. He runs away to his straight talking grandfather (Derek Hardwick) — who takes him bush — and loses his virginity to Sally (a first film role for Rebecca Gibney). Produced by Pacific Films legend John O’Shea, the NZ-German co-production was directed by Rolf Hädrich (Stop Train 349). The film debuted in NZ on television.
This edition of the long-running National Film Unit magazine series goes from south to north, then loops the loop. In Christchurch the cathedral and its history are toured and a service for Queen Elizabeth II is shown. Then there’s international get-togethers: a “Jaycees” congress in Rotorua; then Massey, for a Grasslands Conference. At Milson Aerodrome legless British war-hero Douglas Bader is amongst the attendees at the world’s first International Agricultural Aviation Show, and top-dressers demonstrate their “need for speed” skills above a hill country farm.
This edition of the NFU magazine series first travels to Waiouru to observe the NZ Army’s elite Special Air Service, in the year it was established. The soldiers undergo bush exercises, an obstacle course and a mock ambush, training for deployment to Malaya. Then it’s up to Auckland Zoo to meet husky litters destined for an Antarctic Adventure with Hillary and the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (the dogs are related to Captain Scott’s huskies). And finally, it’s further north to go shark fishing for “a day on the Kaipara” in a segment directed by Maurice Shadbolt.
An elegiac profile of artist Eric Lee-Johnson, by Maurice Shadbolt, is the high point of this NFU magazine film. Johnson gave up a lucrative commercial career to pursue his vision of a New Zealand art moving beyond European tradition; and he is observed chronicling abandoned homesteads and churches, built in remote reaches of Northland's Hokianga harbour by early Pākehā settlers. There's light relief in coverage of a chimpanzees' tea party at Wellington Zoo, while a suitably breathless piece looks at a new industry manufacturing fibreglass boats.
In this 1973 current affairs interview, Albert Wendt discusses his first novel Sons For the Return Home on the occasion of its publication. The Pacific Island Romeo and Juliet tale was a seminal exploration of Samoan migrant life in NZ. Wendt muses on the inspiration for his work; facing discrimination at school and from girlfriends' parents; the differences between NZ Samoans and Samoan Samoans; returning ‘home’, and the difficulty of finding the solitude to write in Samoa. Maurice Shadbolt praises the book at its launch; it was adapted into a film in 1979.