Alun Bollinger, MNZM, has been crafting the slanting southern light onto film and other formats, for almost 40 years. He is arguably New Zealand's premier cinematographer; images framed by Bollinger's camera include some of the most indelible memories to come from iconic films like Goodbye Pork Pie, Vigil and Heavenly Creatures.
I like being minimalist. I suppose it’s because I’ve been brought up in the shoestring school of filmmaking. I quite enjoy for instance putting up one light and making it do two or three different jobs. Alun Bollinger
The Great Maiden's Blush hinges on two people from very different backgrounds: a girl-racer in prison for manslaughter (Hope and Wire's Miriama McDowell), who plans to adopt out her baby, and a failed classical pianist (Renee Lyons) whose own baby is due for a risky operation. Each must confront their own secrets in order to move forward. Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader's acclaimed third movie continues an interest in character-rich stories where "big themes play out in modest circumstances". It won awards for McDowell and Best Self-Funded Film at the 2017 NZ Film Awards.
Paul Wolffram's film melds sounds from noted musicians Richard Nunns and Horomona Horo, recorded in spectacular locations around New Zealand, to demonstrate that the sounds of the natural world are a form of music too. Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro - traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. Debuting at the 2014 Wellington Film Festival, Voices of the Land pays tribute to Nunn's role in their revival, while Wolffram's powerhouse creative team use image and sound to show ways "landscape and the voices of the land can be heard".
This feature film follows Māori medicine woman Paraiti (played by singer Whirimako Black) on a rare visit to Auckland from her Urewera home. She meets a Māori servant (Rachel House) and is drawn into helping a wealthy Pākehā woman (Outrageous Fortune’s Antonia Prebble) with a scandalous, life-threatening secret. The tale of culture clash and deception in settler Aotearoa was directed by Mexican Dana Rotberg (Otlia Rauda), who adapted the story from Witi Ihimaera novella Medicine Woman. Producer John Barnett was also involved in the adaptation of Ihimaera’s Whale Rider.
Director Paul Murphy follows Second Hand Wedding with a romance featuring comedian Rhys Darby, songs by Queen and ... a duck. Darby plays heartbroken nice guy Doug: after a close encounter with a native duck (a paradise shelduck) with emotional problems, he enlists expert help from a sassy animal specialist (played by Brit Sally Hawkins, a Golden Globe-winner for feature Happy-Go-Lucky). True to rom-com form, love ensues ... eventually. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie called Love Birds “an endearingly funny, if sugar-coated local romantic comedy”.
Iaheto Ah Hi's play Tautai involved an urban car thief emulating his Tokelauan fishing ancestors — only instead of hunting sharks, he hunted cars. Twelve years and 27 drafts after first seeing the play, director Michael Bennett and co-writer Gavin Strawhan intertwined Tautai's story with seven other characters, each impacted by one moment of violence. Praising the "excellent ensemble" and Don McGlashan score, Herald reviewer Peter Calder argued that Matariki delivers "a touching series of intersecting stories about the fragility of life and the redeeming power of love".
In Gaylene Preston's War Stories, her mother Tui revealed that she had fallen for another man while her husband was off at war. In Home by Christmas, inspired by an audio interview with her father Ed, Preston looks again at her parents' life during wartime. In this behind-the-scenes doco, veteran actor Tony Barry talks about the acting techniques which allowed him to "be, rather than play, Ed"; Preston reveals that Barry's distinctive voice is almost a carbon copy of her father's; and Chelsie Preston Crayford talks about portraying her own grandmother.
Home by Christmas sees Gaylene Preston returning to the hidden stories of ordinary New Zealanders. Inspired by attempts to get her father Ed to reveal his WWII experiences, this finely-balanced docu-drama moves between three strands: Preston’s father (Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry, in a Qantas award-winning performance) retelling his story; recreations of Ed’s wartime OE; and life for the woman he left behind in Greymouth. The dream cast sees Preston’s own daughter Chelsie Preston Crayford playing Preston's mother Tui, alongside Martin Henderson.
Barefoot Cinema looks at the "art and life" of Alun Bollinger, whom Peter Jackson calls "the finest lighting cameraman that the country has ever produced." Goodbye Pork Pie, Vigil, Heavenly Creatures ... the path of the man known as 'AlBol' is like a screen industry growth chart. But the film is as much an affectionate account of the values and family of a "greenie good keen man", shaped around his four decades-long relationship with wife Helen. In this excerpt, 'AlBol' nails down iron in the rain at his West Coast home, and he and Peter Jackson reflect on their collaborations.
This lauded documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective documentary, part historical re-\enactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. This excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua, “made the city of God on Earth”.
An affectionate documentary about painter Rita Angus. Angus was well known for her enigmatic self portraits, and this Gaylene Preston-directed documentary explores the relationship between the work and biography. It gathers together new material about Angus's life, as well as interviews with a group of friends who knew her, and a new generation of appreciators including biographer Jill Trevelyan. Many of her paintings are also featured, evocatively shot by Alun Bollinger; actress Loren Horsley captures an uncanny likeness as a young Angus.
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).
One night in a West Coast pub, Melanie (Australian actor Rachel Blake) meets a handsome stranger (Sam Neill) and accepts his invitation to go back to his place. When they board his boat she discovers it is further than she thought (a shack on a deserted island). Once they arrive he treats her like a princess. However it slowly dawns on her that she's been kidnapped. Terrified, she also knows that he's her only way off the island. As events play out in Gaylene Preston's twisted thriller, Melanie's feelings change from anger and fear — to desire.
The Ballantyne's Department Store fire in November 1947 claimed 41 lives and left a lasting scar on Christchurch — the city’s biggest single disaster until the 2011 earthquake. The events of that spring day are explored in this short film which intersperses archive footage with a fictional account of workers and customers in the tailoring department as the dramas of everyday life are suddenly overwhelmed. It was directed by Aileen O’Sullivan, shot by Alun Bollinger and made with the NZ Drama School graduating class of 2002 (with music by Gareth Farr).
Brought to you from "the Samoan Embassy" (in reality, the Naked Samoans' motel room) this episode of The Living Room follows the comedic theatre troupe during their time at the Edinburgh Fringe, before retreating to the wild west coast of the South Island where acclaimed cinematographer Alun Bollinger reflects on his diverse life and career. Also featured is the first 'proper' exhibition of Illicit artists on K' Road, (featuring the late Martin Emond) and a visit to small town Mangaweka, setting for surrealist short film Little Gold Cowboy.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for NZ music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the sun on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who also made follow-up arts showcase The Gravy. These excerpts from the first series show a calvacade of local talent, including an early Flight of the Conchords screen outing.
This Inside New Zealand doco takes a calm, no nonsense look at one man’s encounter with heroin addiction — a habit he estimates cost him a seven figure sum. Far from being the clichéd junkie loser, Tim was a husband, father and successful businessman who remarkably didn’t think twice about dabbling with a drug that had already taken the life of one of his sisters. Nine years after it led him to detox and rehab, Tim and his mother and sister talk about his addiction and its impact on their lives — without glamorising or demonising the drug or its users.
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.
The Fellowship of the Ring was the film that brought Peter Jackson's talents to a mass international audience. A year after its release, the first instalment of his adaptation of Tolkien's beloved tale of heroic hobbits was the seventh most successful film of all-time. Critic David Ansen (Newsweek) was one of many to praise the fan-appeasing Frodo-centric take, for its "high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaking sleeve." At 2002's Academy Awards, Weta maestro Richard Taylor became the first Kiwi to win two Oscars on one night.
Numero Bruno is a warts and all biography of widely popular actor, musician and counter-cultural hero Bruno Lawrence. Lawrence's intense, charismatic screen presence was key to ground-breaking Kiwi films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Directed by Steve La Hood (the veteran director’s TV swansong), this documentary features interviews with family and friends, and liberal excerpts from Lawrence's film and musical work, including performances by 70s alternative Aotearoa icons Blerta and clips showcasing his seminal collaborations with Geoff Murphy.
This film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
This short film is one of writer/director Fiona Samuel’s first directorial efforts, and is a stylish and quirky tale of a plain woman with a beautiful voice who is trapped in a difficult life caring for her cranky elderly father. The singer waiting to bloom is beautifully played by actual singer Janet Roddick (Six Volts) in a rare on-screen role, and Desmond Kelly puts in a strong performance as the cantankerous Dad. The film won the Golden Mikeldi at 1997's Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film.
This documentary offers a glimpse into the life, art, and inimitable cheeky-as-a-kaka style of late Kiwi poet, Hone Tuwhare. In the Gaylene Preston-directed film, the man with "the big rubber face" (cheers Glenn Colquhoun) is observed at home, and travelling the country reading his work; polishing a new love poem; visiting old drinking haunts; reading to a hall full of entranced students; and expounding his distinctive views on everything from The Bible to Karl Marx's love life. He reads some of his best-known poems, including Rain and No Ordinary Sun.
Peter Jackson’s fifth feature is a playful blend of comedy, thriller and supernatural horror and was an effective Hollywood calling card for Weta FX. Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) resides in Fairwater, where he runs a supernatural scam. Aided by some spectral consorts, he engineers hauntings and “exorcises” the ghosts for a fee. When a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals, the FBI suspects Frank is the culprit. To clear his name, Frank must deal to the real perpetrator – none other than the Grim Reaper ...
Sam Neill weaves portions of autobiography into an idiosyncratic, acclaimed yet controversial analysis of Kiwi cinema — from its crude beginnings, to the dark flowering of achievement seen in the breakthrough films of Peter Jackson, Lee Tamahori, and Jane Campion. Directed by Neill and Judy Rymer, as one of 18 films commissioned for the British Film Institute's Century of Cinema series, the award-winning documentary debuted at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. The New York Times' Janet Maslin rated it a series highlight. The opening sequence looks at the role of the road in Kiwi film.
An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary, unbelievable life of pioneer Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? The first clue that none of this story is true is that the film begins (the opening 10 minutes is excerpted here) with Peter Jackson leading the viewer down a garden path. Much that is absurd and unlikely follows, leading to a curiously emotional climax. The screening of Forgotten Silver memorably stirred up NZ audiences, and it screened at international film festivals such as Cannes and Venice, where it won a special critics' prize.
In Gaylene Preston's moving documentary, seven elderly women recall their personal experiences of World War II. Their intimate, unadorned stories are filmed talking-heads style, interspersed with personal photographs and period newsreel clips. From tragic love stories to long-suppressed revelations of sex and death, War Stories is a richly revealing touchstone of New Zealand history. It received international acclaim, Kevin Thomas in the LA Times enthused that Preston takes "a simple idea and turns it into a rich, universal experience".
The movie that saw splatter-king Peter Jackson lauded by a whole new audience was born from Fran Walsh's long fascination with the Parker-Hulme case: two teenagers who invented imaginary worlds, wrote under imaginary personas, and in June 1954 murdered Pauline Parker's mother. Walsh and Jackson's kinetic vision of friendship, creativity and tragedy was greeted with Oscar nominations, deals with indie powerhouse Miramax, and rhapsodic acclaim for the film, and newbies Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Time magazine and 30 other publications named it one of the year's 10 best films.
Made to mark 100 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, Bread & Roses tells the story of pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005), who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 50s. Directed by Gaylene Preston and co-written by Graeme Tetley, the acclaimed three-hour production played on television screens and got a limited cinema release. Australian actor Geneviève Picot (as Sonja Davies) and Mick Rose (as her husband) won gongs for their roles at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. Bianca Zander writes about Bread & Roses here.
Mini-series Bread and Roses recreates the early days of trade unionist and politician Sonja Davies. Behind the scenes, the $4 million production required 175 speaking parts, and dozens of sets — many built from plywood, “to make something out of nothing”. This documentary follows director Gaylene Preston and producer Robin Laing from preproduction and filming a dance scene in Wellington Town Hall, to (old-fashioned film) editing. Meanwhile lead actor Geneviève Picot talks about the challenges of portraying a character who often kept her vulnerabilities hidden.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Set over a Christmas beach holiday in 1935, The End of the Golden Weather chronicles the friendship between a teenage boy and the wild-limbed Firpo, dreamer and social outcast. Writer/director Ian Mune spent more than 15 years "massaging" Bruce Mason's classic solo play into a movie, before assembling a dream team to bring it to the screen. The finished film captures the world view of a boy for whom fantasy, hope and disappointment intermingle. Among an impressive awards haul, 12-year-old star Stephen Fulford was recognised at America's Youth in Film Awards.
In this film, choreographer Douglas Wright's work Gloria is captured on camera by Alun Bollinger (in a rare directorial effort from the legendary Kiwi cinematographer). Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria RV589, a hymn praising the birth of Christ, plays behind a yellow and black flurry of limbs and gestures. The journey from gymnastic leaps to rest, marks the cycle of life. The work was shot soon after Wright returned from his dance OE, and formed the Douglas Wright Dance Company. The screening attracted attention from morals groups concerned about nudity on television.
Cowboys of Culture is director Geoff Steven's personal perspective on the Kiwi cinema renaissance of the 1970s. It traces the development of the local film industry from the ‘she'll be right' days when filming permits were unknown, and all that was needed to get a picture up were a Bolex camera, enthusiasm and ingenuity. Raw they might have been, but the films (Wild Man, Sleeping Dogs, Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace) represented a vital new cultural force. The film features interviews with the major players, and clips from their movies.
In 1989 dancer Douglas Wright returned home from an dance OE to choreograph and form his own company. This TV profile, occasioned by the premiere of his work Gloria, looks back on a late blossoming career that began at 21 when he took up ballet to overcome a heroin addiction. After becoming a star with Limbs, he moved on to prestigious troupes in London and New York. Now, as opening night looms, Wright is acutely aware of the danger of pushing his dancers too hard physically as he fights to get the best out of them on an ambitious and highly demanding piece.
This documentary looks at the life and work of acclaimed author Patricia Grace. Filmed at home, on marae and in classrooms, Grace discusses her writing process, her Hongoeka Bay upbringing, her children’s books, criticism of her work, and her Māori identity and belonging to the land (a theme of her then-recently successful novel Potiki). In particular she affirms the importance of writing from experience. The film features interviews with publishers and friends, and excerpts from Grace's stories are read and dramatised, including At the River, The Hills and Mutuwhenua.
The non-violent action preached and practiced by Māori prophets Te Whiti and Tohu at Parihaka in Taranaki forms one of the most compelling episodes of New Zealand’s 19th century history, as they resisted Pākehā confiscation of their land and home. Tim Finn was inspired to write this paean to the pair after reading Dick Scott’s influential book Ask That Mountain. Band Herbs provide the accompaniment. Fane Flaws and cinematographer Alun Bollinger’s video was shot over a night at Auckland Art Gallery and takes Colin McCahon’s striking Parihaka triptych as its centrepiece.
Ambitious kids' sci fi series Space Knights pitched the King Arthur myth into a zany universe of Knights of the Round Space Station, Vader-esque villains, rainbow rocket exhaust, and laser lance jousting. The distinctive look of this early South Pacific Pictures series — like a picture book come to life — was led by cartoonist Chris Slane who achieved it by using actors in life-size puppet suits and blue screen effects. In this excerpt, the evil Mordread creates an android Trojan horse to infiltrate Castle Spacelot. The 'Space Junk' theme song is by Dave Dobbyn.
In the wake of the Allied invasion of Normandy, US soldier Saul (Usual Suspect Gabriel Byrne) meets Belle, alleged to be a Nazi collaborator. He offers to stay in her cottage as Résistance accusers circle. The tragic tale of moral ambiguity during wartime was adapted from a novel by Kiwi MK Joseph. Filmed in France in 1988, director Larry Parr’s feature debut was troubled by the withdrawal of a French partner and bankruptcy of the US distributor; after film festival showings it screened on NZ television in 1995. French actor Marianne Basler won a 1992 NZ Film Award as Belle.
The Haunting of Barney Palmer is a fantasy film for children about a young boy who is haunted by his great uncle. Young Barney fears that he has inherited the Scholar family curse; a suite of 80s-era effects ramp up the supernatural suspense. The film was a co-production between PBS (United States) and Wellington's Gibson Group, which resulted in Ned Beatty (Deliverance, Network) being cast. It was written by Margaret Mahy, based on her Carnegie Award-winning novel The Haunting, and an early fruitful collaboration between her and director Yvonne Mackay.
In director Gaylene Preston's genre-bending tale, Meg (Heather Bolton) buys a stylish old Jaguar so she can be more independent. While driving on a country road, she hears screams in the back – but there's no one there. In the excerpt above, she picks up a mysterious woman in the rain. Later she discovers that the woman was the car's previous owner, and she is missing. Now her killer might just be stalking Meg too. For their first, acclaimed feature, Preston and producer Robin Laing rented out local cinemas, conclusively proving that Mr Wrong had an audience.
“The funniest, liveliest, most exuberant film ever made in New Zealand”. So said critic Nicholas Reid, a year after Came a Hot Friday became 1985's biggest local hit. Though Billy T’s loony Mexican-Māori cowboy is beloved by fans, he is but one eccentric here among many — as two scheming conmen hit town, and encounter bookies, boozers, country hicks, nasty crim Marshall Napier, and Prince Tui Teka playing saxophone. Until the arrival of The Piano in 1993, Ian Mune and Dean Parker’s award-loaded adaptation remained NZ's third biggest local hit. Ian Pryor writes about the film here.
Heart of the Stag showed that director Michael Firth could handle actors as well as skis (his first film, ski documentary Off the Edge, was Oscar-nominated). Bruno Lawrence stars as a man working for a King Country farmer (Terence Cooper), who romances the farmer's adult daughter (Mary Regan) and starts wondering about the strained family dynamic. A rare drama dealing with incest, Heart of the Stag was praised by The LA Times as "electrifyingly good". The NZ Herald said it handled a delicate subject without compromise. Metro voted it the best Kiwi film of 1984.
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. Ethan, a bearded stranger appears, carrying his body, and plants himself on the farm. Toss fears he’s Lucifer and is confused when he and her mother become lovers. It is through Ethan, however, that Toss comes to terms with her father’s death and the first stirrings of womanhood. Vincent Ward’s debut feature was the first NZ film selected for competition at Cannes; LA Times’ critic Kevin Thomas lauded it as “a work of awesome beauty”.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".
This documentary sees director Gaylene Preston go behind the scenes during the making of Geoff Murphy's Utu — his ambitious 'puha western' set during the 1870s land wars. “It’s like football innit? You set up the event and cover it …” says Murphy, preparing to shoot a battle scene. In this excerpt, the film’s insistence on cultural respect is conveyed: Merata Mita discusses the beauty of ta moko as Anzac Wallace is transformed into Te Wheke in the make-up chair, and Martyn Sanderson reflects on having his head remade to be blown off: “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”.
The Neighbours were formed when Wellingtonian Rick Bryant packed his saxophone and headed north to jam with Sam Ford-led Ponsonby outfit Local Heroes. The band toured their sweaty soul sound extensively from their Gluepot Tavern base. ‘The Only One You Need’ was from the 1982 EP of the same name. Directed by Gaylene Preston, the Keystone Cops-style video has Bryant (somewhat slyly) playing a police constable under the spell of vocalist Trudi Green; Green foils Bryant’s bar raid and his efforts to guard a Greymouth bank. Bryant later formed the Jive Bombers.
No ordinary Christmas tale, The Monster’s Christmas throws viewers into a world of friendly creatures, talking hot pools and witches with gym equipment in their cave lairs. Child find Lucy McGrath revels in the role of a plucky girl who encounters a one-eyed monster with smoke billowing from his head. The monsters need her help to steal their voices back from an evil witch. The stylings of the live action creatures were influenced by the volcanic North Island locations, and designed by Janet Williamson and cartoonist Burton Silver. Yvonne Mackay (Kaitangata Twitch) directs.
Goodbye Pork Pie was a low-budget sensation, definitively proving Kiwis could make blockbusters too. Young Gerry (Kelly Johnson) steals a yellow Mini from a Kaitaia rental company. Heading south, he meets John (Tony Barry), who wants his wife back, and hitchhiker Shirl (Claire Oberman). Soon they're heading to Invercargill, with the police in pursuit. High on hair-raising driving and a childlike sense of joy, the Blondini gang are soon hailed as folk heroes, on screen and off. Remake Pork Pie is directed by Matt Murphy — son of Geoff, who drove the original film.
TVNZ’s arts programme Kaleidoscope visits production of John Laing’s film based on David Yallop’s book about “New Zealand’s greatest and most controversial murder” — the 1969 killings of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe at Pukekawa, and the subsequent conviction and eventual pardon of their neighbour Arthur Allan Thomas. A primer on film production as much as the film itself, there are extended visits to two locations. Interviewees include producer John Barnett, director Laing, first assistant director Murray Newey and the recently freed Thomas, who observes a courtroom sequence.
This feature is a dramatized reconstruction of actual events surrounding a notorious miscarriage of justice. Farmer Arthur Allan Thomas was jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe but later exonerated. Directed by John Laing, produced by John Barnett and starring well-known English actor David Hemmings (Blowup, Barbarella), the docudrama leveraged the immense public interest in the case (Thomas was pardoned when the film was in pre-production). It became NZ's most successful commercial film until Goodbye Pork Pie.
In this children's sci-fi caper, an all-singing all-dancing gang of cronies led by 'evil Eva' (Nevan Rowe) holds Auckland to ransom for $5,000,000. As in Under the Mountain Auckland's volcanoes play a starring role, with Eva threatening to drop a nuclear bomb into the crater of Rangitoto. Who will save the city? A trio of intrepid kids and their DIY anti-gravity machine are on the case. Writers Ian Mune and Keith Aberdein give director Roger Donaldson (and a bevy of industry talent) plenty of goofy 70s fun to play with. Donaldson would shortly helm the acclaimed Smash Palace.
A rare and early case of a Kiwi play being adapted for the big screen, Middle Age Spread asks whether adultery is inevitable (or whether the adulterers will inevitably be found out). Grant Tilly stars as a philandering teacher fearing a future of stress, decay and marital dissatisfaction. Roger Hall's acclaimed middle-aged comedy was adapted in the first flush of the Kiwi film renaissance, and marks the feature debut of many talents: director John Reid, cinematographer Alun Bollinger, writer Keith Aberdein, editor Mike Horton, and composer Stephen McCurdy.
Sons for the Return Home tells the story of a Romeo and Juliet romance between students Sione, a NZ-raised Samoan, and Sarah, a middle class palagi. Director Paul Maunder shifts between time and setting (London, Wellington, Samoa) in adapting Albert Wendt's landmark 1973 novel. Sons was the first feature film attentive to Samoan experience in NZ — alongside themes of identity, racism and social and sexual consciousness. In this excerpt Sione meets Sarah's parents, and his tin'a has him scrubbing their Newtown pavement prior to Sarah's reciprocal visit.
A State of Siege is the story of a retired art teacher dealing with isolation and loneliness, culminating in a stormy, terrifying night. This is a six-minute excerpt. Vincent Ward's acclaimed short — adapted from a Janet Frame novel — was made when he was at Ilam art school. The Evening Post called it "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."
Charlie Horse is a personal film diary by actor Martyn Sanderson showing the breaking-in and training of a young colt in rural Hawke's Bay. It was made when Sanderson was a vital part of the gang of Blerta creatives who based themselves at Waimarama Beach in the 1970s. Some stunning ‘wild horses' imagery is captured (shot by Sanderson and cinematographer Alun Bollinger) and narration is intriguingly provided from audience comments recorded at a local screening of the footage. It features music by Blerta members Bruno Lawrence, Chris Seresin and Patrick Bleakley.
Smith (Sam Neill, in his breakthrough screen role) is devastated when his wife runs off with his best friend Bullen (Ian Mune). Smith escapes to the Coromandel. Meanwhile, the government enlists an anti-terrorist force to crack down on its opponents. Bullen, now a guerrilla, asks Smith to join the revolution. Directed by Roger Donaldson, this adaptation of CK Stead's novel Smith's Dream heralded a new wave of Kiwi cinema; it was one of the 1970s only local films to win a big local audience. This excerpt includes a much talked about scene: a baton charge by government forces.
Wild Man is the missing link between early 70s musical legends Blerta, and the burgeoning of Blerta trumpeter Geoff Murphy as a man whose directing talents knew few bounds. The Blerta ensemble relocated to the mud-soaked West Coast to create this tale of pioneer con men and silent movie style pratfalls. Bruno Lawrence and Ian Watkin arrange a fight - and bets - in each town they arrive in, while Bruno channels his inner wild man from under a leopard skin. Wild Man was released in cinemas alongside John Clarke and Geoff Murphy’s Dagg Day Afternoon.
The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand, and wrestling — à la a homegrown Holden Caulfield — with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.
Geoff Murphy (Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu) directs this freewheeling adaptation of the Māori legend of Uenuku and his affair with the mist maiden Hinepūkohurangi. The story of love, betrayal, and rainbow redemption was the first Māori myth adapted for TV, and the first TV drama to be entirely performed in te reo (The Listener softened viewers by providing a translation prior to screening). Filmed at the Waimarama base of Murphy and cinematographer Alun Bollinger, Uenuku was produced by Peach Wemyss Astor for the NZBC — a then-rare independently produced drama.
Set amidst the 'friendly' 1974 Commonwealth Games, The Games Affair was a thriller fantasy series for children. Remembered fondly by many who were kids in the 70s, the story follows three teenagers who battle a miscreant professor who's experimenting on athletes with performance enhancing drugs. Alongside the young heroes the series featured John Bach as a grunting villain, a youthful Elizabeth McRae, and SFX jumping sheep. It was NZ telly’s first children’s serial, the first independently produced long-form drama, and an early credit for producer John Barnett.
Set during the 1974 Commonwealth Games, thriller-fantasy series The Games Affair was NZ telly's first children's serial. Remembered fondly by 70s kids, it follows three teenagers battling a miscreant professor who's experimenting on athletes. The second episode begins with the trio finding a performance-enhanced (by nifty stop-motion) beach runner. The trail takes them to QEII Park for the Games' opening ceremony where they confront the villains, and — via pioneering DIY FX — deflate John Bach Flat Stanley-style. Note: the episode has nothing to do with toilets.
Set during the 1974 Commonwealth Games, The Games Affair was a thriller fantasy series for children. Remembered fondly by many who were kids in the 70s, the story follows three teenagers who battle a miscreant professor who's experimenting on athletes with performance enhancing drugs. This first episode include some SFX jumping sheep; John Bach as a blonde, grunting villain, and a youthful Elizabeth McRae. It was NZ telly's first children's serial, the first independently produced long-form drama, and an early credit for producer John Barnett.
“Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle”. Denis Glover’s classic poem The Magpies has inspired plays, art by Dick Frizzell, spats about onomatopoeia, and this 1974 short film, produced by publisher Alister Taylor. It centres around Glover musing on Magpies in his smoky Terrace flat in Wellington, during an interview with Glover’s son Rupert. Bookending the interview are two readings of the poem by director Martyn Sanderson. Sanderson’s memorable voice scores scenes of rural decay, and animation interpreting the tragedy of Tom and Elizabeth (the farming couple whose dreams go bad).
This documentary follows the 1973 Heatway Rally, a mud and oil-splattered event in which 120 drivers covered 3600 miles over eight days. Directed by Tony Williams, it was a major logistical exercise, with five camera units, shot by a who’s who of the 70s NZ film industry. In addition to high speed on-and-off road action, it includes an explanation of what co-drivers actually do, a chance for a driver’s wife to ride in a rally car, and driving and cornering montages set to orchestral accompaniment. It won the Feltex Award for best documentary.
The Italian Job meets cheap jugs and a student union gig in this early heist tale from Geoff Murphy (Pork Pie, Quiet Earth, Utu). The plot follows some university students — short on exam fees and beer money — and their scheme to crack a campus safe ... the things kids got up to before internal assessment! Murphy enlisted $4000 and a bevy of mates (including Bruno on bongos) to make the film over nine months of weekends. It screened on TV on New Year’s Eve 1970; its assured pace and naturalist acting stood in stark contrast to the stage-derived telly standards of the time.