NZ On Screen’s Dunedin Collection offers up the sights and sounds of a city edged by ocean, and famed for its music. Dunedin is a bracing mixture of old and new: of Victorian buildings and waves of fresh-faced students, many of them carrying guitars. As Dave Cull reflects in his introduction, it is a city where distance is no barrier to creativity and innovation.
The South Tonight was a Dunedin-filmed regional news show. In these excerpts, Martin Phillipps and The Chills return home from London, and find album Submarine Bells is number one; legendary local band Sneaky Feelings play a last gig; Velvet Underground muse Nico plays Orientation Week; a ball is filmed at Larnach Castle for TV series Hanlon; rhododendron nuts ramble at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and Jim Mora visits the Danseys Pass Hotel. Finally there’s a survey of dingy student digs circa 1985 (when rents went as low as $14 a week).
This documentary tells the story of the legendary Flying Nun music label up to its 21st birthday. The label became associated with the 'Dunedin Sound': a catch-all term for a sprawl of DIY, post-punk, warped, jangly guitar-pop. The Guardian: "[it's] as if being on the other side of the world meant the music was played upside down". Features interviews with founder Roger Shephard and many key players, the spats and the glory. The label's influence on the US indie scene is noted, and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus covers The Verlaines' 'Death and the Maiden'.
In Scarfies, five Dunedin students find themselves in a free squat, and a dark place, after taking a criminal captive in their basement. The debut feature from Robert Sarkies starts as a comic tribute to Otago student days, then turns into a psychological thriller. Outside of the two Warriors movies, Scarfies was the most successful Kiwi release of the 90s on home turf. It went on to scoop best film, director and screenplay awards at the 2000 NZ Film and TV Awards. This excerpt sees the scarfies torn between dealing with the crim and a footy match at Carisbrook.
Bagpipes, haggis, and the heartbreak of leaving home; Hoots Mon examines those who have migrated from Scotland to Aotearoa. In the 1840s a group of Scots settlers started a new life in Dunedin, after breaking off from the Church of Scotland. Ayrshire-born director John Bates talks to some of their descendants, and heads to the far north to interview others with Caledonian roots, in Waipu. Alongside some impressive Richard Long camerawork, the interviews include composer Steve McDonald, whose ancestral research has inspired several Celtic-themed albums.
Nature documentary A Flock of Students captures footage of a species rarely caught on camera: a colony of young human 'freshers' who have migrated south to Dunedin. Over footage of nesting, university pie-eating contests and social gatherings, narrator Sydney Jackson provides insights into student display rituals, social groupings and early, "somewhat unfocused" attempts at courtship. As winter bites, temperatures fall below zero, and the male of the species builds up resistance by exposing itself to all available germs. David Kilgour (The Clean) provides the music.
A documentary about the fashion industry in Dunedin - a city that seems to turn out more than its fair share of fashion designers. Made for TVNZ’s Artsville strand, the doco features designers Margi Robertson (NOM*d), Tanya Carlson (Carlson), Veronica Keucke (Keucke) and Juliet Fay (Aduki). Prominent fashion journalist (turned author) Stacy Gregg talks about how Dunedin is the source of the "dark intellectualism of New Zealand fashion". The southern styles are set to a soundtrack of Flying Nun bands, and there are excerpts from some classic Nun clips.
"Shall we have our photo taken?" This lo-fi classic offers up a time capsule to a long ago day down south, with The Verlaines performing in a Dunedin flat in the company of various Flying Nun friends, and a wandering pet bunny. Director/cameraman Peter Janes recalls that the clip was shot "in a beautiful old house on Stuart Street", before everyone "took off to Cargill's Castle and made it up as we went along." Vocalist Graeme Downes' 18 mentions in the chorus of a word starting with 'V' are a namecheck not only for his band, but for infamous French poet Paul Verlaine.
During his last session on air, a veteran radio announcer finds himself on a quest through the streets and sewers. His mission: to retrieve a special record, in time to play it for a devoted listener. Signing Off was made by Nightmare Productions, a team of Dunedin filmmakers. The success of this comic adventure helped lead to Scarfies, the feature debut of Nightmare team member, director Robert Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Out of the Blue). A big seller overseas, Signing Off won awards at film festivals from Dresden to Montreal.
This NFU film features the 1948 celebrations which marked the centenary of Dunedin's founding. The Edinburgh of the South's Scots heritage figures prominently, with Jock Carlson taking over the more Caledonian parts of the narration from Selwyn Toogood. A tour of the city is followed by extensive footage of the carnival week's centrepiece: an elaborate "cavalcade of progress", as floats trace Dunedin's development over 100 years, before the ambitious light and fireworks finale. In the period the film was made, all of the NFU's colour footage was processed overseas.
A line-up of receptionists, trainee teachers, and models talk horse-riding and modesty, vying to win Miss New Zealand 1973. Miss Otago (Pam King) proves a popular winner — the show was filmed in Dunedin — and was later a semi-finalist at that year's Miss World contest. The compere provides innuendo-laced links, and introduces reigning Miss New Zealand (Kristine Allan), Miss World (Australia's Belinda Green), Canadian singer Gary Buck, and blind Māori crooner Eddie Low. Miss Horowhenua — a hairdresser — highlights 1973 style: wigs are out for women, but in for men.
This first episode of this much-loved kids series explores all things to do with lighthouses. It begins with a visit to Nugget Point; then things get eclectic. Earnest informational TV is interspersed with psychedelic graphics, cartoons, a sea shanty ("I want to marry a lighthouse keeper"), and funky lighthouse-themed songs. We meet Don (a lighthouse stamp collector); uncover the mysteries of how a ship fits into a bottle; and the three young presenters deconstruct their attempts at painting lighthouses, including a fine abstract effort from Ray. Classic.
RWP reporter/director Brent Hansen (later head of MTV Europe) visits the South Island: checking venues, talking to local luminaries, catching live bands and generally taking the pulse of the local music scene. Flying Nun is on the rise (and just starting to attract international attention) although none of the label's major acts are playing near the RWP cameras. Christchurch is in flux waiting on the next big pop act to emerge, while Dunedin is a hive of activity with a new generation of Flying Nun acts starting to come through. Then there's Crystal Zoom...
This classic kids’ adventure series follows a boy trying to find his missing father, amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. The show brandished unprecedented production values, and demonstrated that NZ-made kids’ drama could be successfully exported. This first episode sees plucky Scott Hunter (Andrew Hawthorn) steal away to Tucker’s Valley, spurred on by his unsympathetic uncle. In the background pieces, writer Roger Simpson recalls creating 13 scripts at high speed, and director Tom Parkinson writes about the Kiwi landscape as character, and finding the production team.
Ralph Hotere (Te Aupōuri) is regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest artists. This documentary by Merata Mita provides a perspective on his world, largely by way of framing his extensive body of work. Hotere remains famously tight-lipped throughout, but there are interviews with artists, friends and commentators, alongside scenes of Hotere working and of his contemporary home context. Mita's impressionistic film is set to a Hirini Melbourne-directed score of jazz, māori and pop songs, and poetry reading by Hotere's first wife Cilla McQueen.
Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon’s first — and most famous — defence case was the first episode in this award-winning drama series about his career. In 1895, alleged baby farmer Minnie Dean was charged with murdering two infants in her care. Hanlon’s inspired manslaughter defence was undermined by the judge’s direction to the jury; and Dean became the only woman to be hanged in NZ. Hanlon vowed none of his future clients would ever suffer this fate. Emmy-nominated and a major critical success, the episode contributed to a re-evaluation of Dean’s conviction.
It's in the Bag was a travelling television quiz show, fronted by Selwyn Toogood. Competitors were selected from the audience and had to answer three questions before they could select a bag and bargain for its contents. Toogood's catchphrases, such as, "by hokey!" and, "what'll it be customers, the money or the bag?", have become part of folklore. This 1st June, 1974 episode was telecast from Dunedin's Mayfair Theatre; a Frigidaire ("jet-o-matic") Home Laundry and Pye hi-fi system are on offer amongst the booby prizes. Heather Eggleton is the glam bag lady.
In November 1990, misfit loner David Gray (played by Matthew Sunderland) murdered 13 of his neighbours in the seaside town of Aramoana near Dunedin. His rampage lasted 22 hours before he was gunned down by police. Out of the Blue is a dramatised re-enactment of these traumatic events. Directed by Robert Sarkies and co-written with Graeme Tetley, this gut-wrenching film did respectable box office and was lauded at 2008's Qantas Film and TV Awards, winning most feature categories, including best film and screenplay. Warning: excerpt contains realistic gun violence.
Wildtrack was a highly successful nature series for children, running from 1981 through several series to the early 90s. The series was produced from Natural History New Zealand’s (then TVNZ’s Natural History Unit) Dunedin base and this final episode for 1990 looks at the natural world of the Otago Peninsula and harbour, from unique inhabitants: royal albatross, fur seals, and yellow-eyed penguin; to myth-busting explanations of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, lichen, and mudflat cricket. It includes the year’s bloopers reel.
This clip works not for its earth shattering concept, nor its production values or performances (which are largely nonchalant). It looks miserable, nihilistic even. But — through luck or good management — the video for this Chills classic just seems to work, clinging to the melancholy essence of the song like a shrunken homespun. Observant viewers will notice a single bird — not unlike the lonesome outcast portrayed by Martin Phillipps — flying back against the flow.
As a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, Brian Deeds (Belfast-born actor Ian McElhinney) grassed on 23 fellow terrorists in Northern Ireland. Now living in New Zealand under a new identity, Deeds has to come clean to his girlfriend (Judy McIntosh) when a hit squad arrives in town for him. This clip sees guns and car crashes on the streets of Dunedin. Made in NZ, the Anglo-Kiwi funded TV movie won solid audiences on UK television, before local release on video. Ian Mune (Came a Hot Friday) directs; Marshall Napier and Temuera Morrison are the cops playing catch up.
Dunedin-based painter Jeffrey Harris is profiled in this episode from an early 80s arts series made for TVNZ. Harris talks about his quest for intensity and impact; and how violence both attracts and repulses him. He also discusses two of his influences at the time — the surrounding landscape (particularly the wilds of Otago Peninsula and Seacliffe, and the older parts of Dunedin) and the photographs, ranging from family portraits to newspaper pictures, that provided the figures that populated his expressionistic works.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
Cilla McQueen is a poet, teacher, performer and multimedia artist. In 1983 she won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and the Jessie MacKay Award for her debut volume Homing In (1982). McQueen has often written about Otago, and in this item she reads poems from the book and draws in varied locales around the region. McQueen also discusses where she sources her inspiration, and explains a creative process which involves stimulus from sight and sound as much as the written word. McQueen later moved to Bluff.
"The season's old and the leaves have turned to gold / And the wind blows cold from the south ..." The song is mournful, dreamy and elegiac, and so is the music video, from Steve Young. The clip features amiably laidback performances by the band members, hanging out in various Dunedin locations — including synchronised guitar dancing (a la the Shadows) on a wintry-looking beach: grey clouds, pale blue sky and a charming "out now on Flying Nun" drawn in the sand as the closing shot. The orange $50 note in the busking bowl is a notable 80s relic.
This award-winning National Film Unit production soars on thermals with the world's largest seabird, the toroa or royal albatross. Director Grant Foster captures the majesty of the flyer with a three metre-plus wingspan (“as wide as two volkswagen cars parked side by side”); laments historic slaughter; celebrates conservation efforts (hat tipping legendary toroa custodian Dr Lance Richdale); and surveys the albatross's life cycle at its only mainland breeding colony on Otago Peninsula, from courtship and nesting to taking off on an epic oceanic OE.
Nearly two decades before Mighty Boosh comes this loopy confection. With its missing visage line "I left my face, in outer space" you know this is going to be one trippy song — and the wild and spacey video is totally in keeping with the track. There’s UFO imagery and all sorts of other mad things thrown in, including a dinosaur skeleton and a vacuum cleaner played like a guitar. And it must be one of the few music videos to feature a band member wearing a peggy squares crochet poncho. The clip won Best Music Video at the 1993 NZ Music Awards.
This fictionalised account of pioneering 19th century photographers the Burton brothers is set partly in Dunedin during the closing stages of the New Zealand Wars. William and Alfred take contrasting approaches to representing their subjects — and are treated accordingly by the authorities, who are attempting to attract new settlers while brutally suppressing Māori. Produced by veteran John O'Shea (who co-wrote with playwright Robert Lord), the tale of art, commerce and colonisation was largely well received as a thoughtful essay at revisionist history.
The Central Otago gold mining town of Cromwell celebrates its centenary in this NFU documentary. For a fortnight the townsfolk go about their ordinary business, but in colonial-era costume. They also re-enact the frontier-style life of gold rush New Zealand. Just 20 years before the film was shot, Cromwell banks were still receiving deposits of gold dust from customers. But the Cromwell of 1966 is also just a memory. While the old main street still exists, much of the town was flooded with the completion of the Clyde dam in 1993.
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.