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Clips (4)

  1. Part one of three from this full length documentary.

  2. Part two of three from this full length documentary.

  3. Part three of three from this full length documentary.

  4. The credits from this documentary.


Directed by Sam Pillsbury, this 1974 film observes Ralph Hotere — one of New Zealand’s greatest artists — at a moment when excitement is gathering about his work. Lauded as a “classic” by Ian Wedde, the documentary is framed around the execution of a watershed piece: a large mural Hotere was commissioned to paint for Hamilton’s Founders Theatre. Interviews with friends and associates — poets Hone Tuwhare and Bill Manhire, art critics, officials and dealers — are intercut with fascinating shots of Hotere working (including making art by photocopying or 'xerography').


Reflections from the director, 35 years on by Sam Pillsbury 03.07.2009

When I made the doco I was trying to dramatise Ralph's slyness, and his integrity, as well as his core sensuality ... [it's captured in] the whole mussels thing Hone [Tuwhare] talks about. And ...

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A perspective by Ian Wedde 30.06.2009

Sam Pillsbury's 1974 documentary about Ralph Hotere's Hamilton Founders Theatre mural opens with a shot of the artist intently surveying the foyer and then sauntering towards an apprehensive group of men, one of ...

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Credits (5)

 Sam Pillsbury
 David H Fowler
 Lynton Diggle

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Comments (5)

 Paul Ward

Paul Ward | website

@Sam: thanks for your further notes on your experience filming Hotere. Critic Mark Amery calls your film "“arguably the finest documentary of an artist I’ve seen” in choosing it amongst the Artists on Screen Collection ( he selected for us. Personally I found it a revelation: a spry, patient and sensitive look at Hotere and his process, and as Ian says in his piece, it captures the bristling excitement around the work. It humbly stands the test of 40 years and is a fine testament to an artist in the zone.

 Sam Pillsbury

Sam Pillsbury

Gee Anna...that's a 40 year old doco. Ralph deserves the huge love and respect he gets from me and everyone who knows and loves NZ art.

And, I only just read all this, including Ian Wedde's commentary (Ian and I did English together in the '60s at Auckland University). Weirdly, Ralph didn't keep us on our toes per se, other than that being granted the honor of access to this remarkable person in itself kept us on our toes. Ralph was warm, gentle, considerate and kindly. I have rarely felt such love for a human being, and in addition to being welcomed into his home and private life, he taught me by example that generosity about one's fellow artists is possible and rewarding. This is something I could never have learned from my colleagues in the film business!

 Rex Harrison

Rex Harrison

Go Ralph! This is quite a eye-opener. No wonder I left the Waikato! The official opening crowd looks mean (in an Alabama kind of way!) Ralph certainly deserves the recognition inherent in the Order of New Zealand. Our finest artist.

 anna louise

anna louise

Ralph deserves more than this



Very cool


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Collections.   See all collections ›  

Included in:

 The Matariki Collection
 National Film Unit Collection
 Artists on Screen Collection


Arguably the finest documentary of an artist I’ve seen. 


1974 San Francisco Film Festival
Merit Award