Producer George Andrews has been making documentaries about New Zealand for more than 40 years, including legendary documentary series Landmarks. In 2002 he was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to television.
In 1981 three years of hard work culminated in the screening of Landmarks - attracting the largest viewing audience ever achieved by a local documentary series. Robert Boyd-Bell, in his book New Zealand Television - The First 25 Years
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six teenagers from Māori language schools in Rotorua, on a three-week cultural field trip to Santiago, Chile. The students take their own cameras to record their experiences. They are hosted by the Montessori school Colegio Pucalan and local families, and take in the sites and sounds of the Chilean capital. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. It is a follow-up series to the original Kia Ora Ni Hao, set in China.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six teenagers from Māori language schools in Rotorua, on a three-week cultural field trip to Santiago, Chile. The students take their own cameras to record their experiences. They are hosted by the Montessori school Colegio Pucalan and local families, and take in the sites of the Chilean capital. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. In this episode, the students tour Santiago, meet street entertainers, and find out about Chile’s main faith - Catholicism.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six teenagers from Māori language schools in Rotorua, on a three-week cultural field trip to Santiago, Chile. The students take their own cameras to record their experiences. They are hosted by the Montessori school Colegio Pucalan and local families, and take in the sites of the Chilean capital. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. In this episode, the students learn about Chilean sports, sample different cuisines, and visit the port of Valparaiso.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six Māori language students from around the country, on a three-week cultural field trip to Beijing, China. The teenagers take their own cameras to record their experiences. They attend a local high school, live with Chinese families, and take in the local sites and sounds. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. In this episode, the students learn how to get around Beijing using the local transport, they visit schools and find out about calligraphy, and they tour Beijing’s legendary Forbidden City.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six Māori language students from around the country, on a three-week cultural field trip to Beijing, China. The teenagers take their own cameras to record their experiences. They attend a local high school, live with Chinese families, and take in the local sites and sounds. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. In this episode, the students check out the food markets, learn about Chinese sports, and visit the Great Wall of China.
Allan Wilson was the Pukekohe-raised scientist who revolutionised the study of evolutionary biology. Inspired by birds, he developed molecular approaches to 'clock' evolutionary change, and raised the hypothesis that humans evolved from one 'Eve' in Africa about 200,000 years ago. He is the only New Zealander to win a pretigious US MacArthur “genius” Award. The Listener called the film, a "shrewd insight into the man himself: the quintessential pioneering expat Kiwi individualist." It was made in partnership with UC Berkeley where Wilson was based for 35 years.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six Māori language students from around the country, on a three-week cultural field trip to Beijing, China. The teenagers take their own cameras to record their experiences. They attend a local high school, live with Chinese families, and take in the local sites and sounds. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles.
In this documentary 'Naked Samoan' Oscar Kightley, and Māori radio/TV personality Nathan Rarere use DNA technology to trace their families' ancestry. They discover that their forebears originated in Taiwan before migrating to the Pacific via Vanuatu (and the Cook Islands, for those going on to Aotearoa). On the DNA trail they meet locals and find striking cultural similarities — even in Taiwan, where the indigenous people look Polynesian, and provide a haka-like welcome. The film won top honours at the International Oceania Documentary Film Festival in Tahiti.
Our Small World is a portrait of life on an atoll in Tokelau — on Fale, an island so small, the schoolhouse had to be built on the next island, and the pigs live on the reef. Narrated by Tokelau-born Ioane Puka on a return visit, the film examines old traditions meeting pressures from the outside world, an emphasis on self-sufficiency and togetherness, and worries over education and a declining, youth-heavy population. Key decisions are made by a group of male elders, although after initial doubts, they have accepted a woman police officer.
This TV drama follows a whānau taking a claim to the Waitangi tribunal, over plans by a Pākehā neighbour to build a resort on disputed land. Ngā Tohu jumps between the present day and 1839/40, when Māori chiefs were canvassed to support the Treaty of Waitangi and a settler makes an equivocal land deal with Chief Tohu (George Henare). The exploration of the Treaty's evolving kaupapa is effectively humanised by an age-old love story, and it scored multiple drama gongs at 2000's TV Awards. Director Andrew Bancroft wrote the teleplay with playwright Hone Kouka.
In the first of this two-part documentary about Kiwis and cars, actor Rima Te Wiata sets off on a road tour of New Zealand. Starting in the South Island, Te Wiata learns about the first bus tours to Aoraki, which were handled by the Mount Cook Motor Company. Then she travels to Westport via the infamous Hawks Crag, and hears from locals about the difficulties and dangers of transit before the introduction of cars. A trip back up the country takes Te Wiata to Northland, where the locals suggest they may have been better off when the primary mode of transport was by boat.
In this second part of a documentary on Kiwis and cars, host Rita Te Wiata explores motoring in the latter half of the 20th Century. She begins in Christchurch where Ford V8s were a vehicle for post-war romance, then heads to Tahuna for beach racing. Te Wiata pockets the licence she supposedly got in part one and heads to Raglan to look at the car-enabled freedom of the 60s and 70s: surfing, fishing, caravans. While downsides are mentioned (motorways, pollution, accidents), mostly it’s a paean to petrolhead passion. The tour ends with a cruise up Queen St in a muscle car.
This documentary unearths the story of the soldiers in the New Zealand Tunneling Company, whose daring World War I raids involved digging tunnels through chalk rock, laying explosives underneath enemy lines, and countermining German tunneling efforts. The story is told through the eyes of a New Zealand woman who retraces her grandfather’s war story to Arras, France, and sees the Kiwi-tagged cavern 'city' nearly 80 years later. The company played a key role on the Western Front, and was especially recruited in NZ, made up of miners, bushmen and labourers.
In this documentary Cherie James pays tribute to New Zealand’s best-loved entertainer, telling Billy T James story from a daughter’s perspective. Performers who worked with Billy in his showband The Maori Volcanics also share their memories, as do family members who reminisce about Billy's early life growing up in the Waikato. Cherie provides her perspective on the well-publicised arguments that occurred after his death and why it was so important for Billy to be buried beside his mother on the sacred Taupiri mountain overlooking Huntly.
This four-part series from 1996 presents the game of rugby as a mirror for New Zealand social history. Written by Finlay Macdonald, it sets out to explain how rugby became such an intrinsic part of New Zealand's identity. Each episode visits iconic paddocks (from schools to stadiums) and players (from amateurs Nepia, Meads, and Shelford, to professional star Lomu); and observers muse on the influence of the inflated pig's bladder on Kiwi culture, including historian Jock Phillips, writer Ian Cross and journalist TP Mclean.
This documentary follows the police investigation that lead to the capture and imprisonment of South Auckland rapist Joseph Thompson. He was the first serial rapist convicted in New Zealand. Using re-enactments and in depth interviews with police, the Keith Hunter-directed doco examines how the relatively new technology of DNA matching and criminal profiling led to the arrest of Thompson in 1995. Viewers are not spared details of his long-lasting and brutal rampage which targeted girls as young as 10. Thompson was eventually sentenced to over 30 years in prison.
This four-part series explores New Zealand social history through rugby, from the first rugby club in 1870 to the 1995 World Cup. In this episode commentators muse on the roots of rugby in a settler society, in "a man's country". Rugby's unique connection with Māori, from Tom Ellison and the Natives’ tour to a Te Aute College haka, is explored; as well as the national identity-defining 1905 Originals’ tour, and the relationship between footy and the battlefield. As the Finlay Macdonald-penned narration reflects: “Maybe it's just a game, but it's the game of our lives”.
This documentary comprehensively plots NZ's progress from enthusiastic supporter of the atomic bomb in the 1940s to proudly nuclear free by the late 1980s. New Zealand — the birthplace of "father of the atom" Ernest Rutherford — willingly participated in British tests at Christmas Island in the 1950s (and looked eagerly for uranium in the Buller Gorge) but as testing increased in the Pacific, Prime Ministers Holyoake, Kirk and Lange voiced opposition — and Moruroa, nuclear ship visit protests and the Rainbow Warrior bombing fuelled the anti-nuclear cause.
First Hand was a series of mid 1990s documentaries made for TVNZ. Newbie filmmakers were armed with consumer cameras, aiming to capture “natural human behaviour” with the new technology and minimal crew. This edition, directed by David Ambler, profiles 23-year-old Newstalk ZB late-night talkback host Mike Yardley, and introduces regular callers from his nationwide audience of 150,000: service station worker Lucas channels Oprah, Petone radio poet George rhymes about detached organs, and Merle dances to an organist. Radio veteran Marcus Lush narrates.
Made for the Government's Careers Service (now Careers New Zealand) and the National Bank, Pathways was a 20-part video resource for young people, aimed at providing easily digestible advice and inspiration on careers and training. It combined advice from experts, and interviews with young people in various jobs from dance teacher to meat inspector. A series of 'mini-dramas' added levity; the actors included Karl Urban, Katrina Hobbs (Home and Away), and Robbie Magasiva in an early screen role. Gavin Strawhan and Liddy Holloway were among the writers.
Designed to inspire school leavers to find their career, Pathways sees a selection of young New Zealanders talk about their job paths. The pilot episode of this 1994 Careers NZ resource is bookended with a 'mini-drama' about young people flatting together, which includes some familiar faces. Karl Urban plays lazy surfer Wayne, while Robbie Magasiva is the sales assistant whose plans of climbing the career ladder go awry. Marcus Lush plays a DJ who links a series of interviews with people either working or training. Later Lush interviews experts on youth employment prospects.
This extended episode of First Hand sees a couple at an economic crossroads, and making the decision to move into self-employment. After finding their jobs in Auckland compromised, Alec and Sheena McDonald set out to find and buy their own dairy in a small North Island town. They end up in Awakeri, near Whakatane. The lifestyle transition is far from trouble-free, as the couple must negotiate the worlds of bureaucracy and banking to insure their new business stays afloat. The documentary provides insights into running a small business during a time of economic reform.
Riddled with old military tunnels, Auckland’s North Head has long been the focus of speculation. In this documentary Philip Alpers explores theories that a hidden tunnel network contains tonnes of decaying ammunition — and two old Boeing airplanes. Archeologist Dave Veart sets about finding the truth. The man responsible for closing the tunnels says there's nothing there; others recall seeing a plane. Filmmaker John Earnshaw is convinced of its existence. Earnshaw would spend years battling the crown in court, over claims of a breached agreement to search North Head.
Mental health care is profiled in this 1992 episode of First Hand. Wayne Hussey is a member of the South Auckland Community Treatment Team, who is followed over the course of a day seeing his patients. They vary from a young woman struggling with bipolar disorder, to a woman living with schizophrenia, and a man who has adapted to independent life in the community. Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital becomes the voluntary home of one patient. The hospital was closed in 1999, and parts of the complex were controversially used for haunted house attraction Spookers.
For 10 years Sister Joan Timpany served as the Catholic chaplain at Paremoremo Prison, where the country's most dangerous criminals are incarcerated. The cheerful nun is interviewed in this First Hand documentary by new director Leanne Pooley (Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls). Prisoners adore Sister Joan; many call her a mother figure. An inmate called Julian performs a song he wrote for her, with the lyrics: "There’s no other here to listen, I can always count on her to be a friend." Sister Joan was awarded the Queen's Service Order in 1993 for her community service. She died in 2006.
Produced by George Andrews, Great New Zealand River Journeys is a three-part series exploring the history and majesty of the Waikato, Wanganui and Clutha rivers. In this episode, Jon Gadsby explores the Clutha River and surrounds, and finds out about jet-boating and rafting (the cameraman falls in when he gets a little too close to his subject), bungy jumping, the Clyde Dam, Cromwell's giant fruit and Alexandra's giant clock. Gadsby enjoys the ubiquitous whitebait fritters offered by the locals before the journey ends at the mouth of the river.
Great New Zealand River Journeys was a three part series produced by George Andrews that examined the history, geography and people of three of New Zealand's most iconic rivers: comedian Jon Gadsby explores the Clutha river, poet Sam Hunt the Whanganui, and musician Lynda Topp takes on the Waikato.
New Zealand's much-loved comedian and entertainer Billy T James tells the story of his heart transplant operation at Greenlane Hospital, in 1989, and his subsequent recovery. The documentary, much of which is filmed at the hospital (sometimes even from bed, as Billy re-enacts his operation) also features five other patients who he became close to over the months while they waited for their hearts. Entertaining as well as educational, the film includes a musical number with Max Cryer, dressed as a surgeon, joined in song by Billy and Don Selwyn.
Howard Morrison visits France for the first time in this two-part Kiwi production, made to mark the bicentenary of Bastille Day. His tour of French culture begins on the Champs-Élysées on the big day itself, then ranges from Napoleon to Notre Dame, with visits to the Musée de l’Homme to see taonga, plus crepe-flipping and Parisian cabaret (where he belts out a song onstage). When the Māori leaves Metro range, it’s fishing in Neuvic and ‘Pokarekare Ana’ accompanied by accordion. In Corrèze he meets another Kiwi, and uses a minitel (an early version of the world wide web).
Dame Catherine Tizard has been many things: mother, marriage celebrant, civic leader and Her Majesty's rep in NZ. Here Tizard takes reporter Marcia Russell through her life, from a Waikato town (where she was wary of becoming a farmer's wife); through marrying her uni lecturer; leading Auckland as mayor; to her Governor-General role. Her front-running story parallels societal changes that presented increased opportunities for Kiwi women. A roll-call of Governors-General outlines how for over 100 years the position was held exclusively by white British males.
In this second part of Kia Ora Bonjour Sir Howard Morrison continues his exploration of France — plus an early Kiwi French connection. Back in Rotorua he welcomes Les Bleus (the French rugby team), teaches them about the haka, and looks back at Marion du Fresne’s first, fatal contact with Māori in 1772. In France Morrison checks out Bordeaux wines, takes a spa in Dax, goes fishing in multicultural Marseille, takes a TGV fast train, and cruises Paris in a Citroën. The Kiwi production was made for TV3, to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution.
Made for the 50th anniversary of Air New Zealand, Reaching for the Skies takes a journey through New Zealand’s aviation history — from claims that Richard Pearse flew before the Wright brothers and early attempts at Trans-Tasman travel, to the establishment of Tasman Empire Airways and the modern airliner. Vintage aircraft feature, with biplanes and single engine aircraft, as well as rare Solent flying boats. Interviewees talk about their desire to form a new private airline after the war, only to be denied, and the importance of having a national carrier in New Zealand.
In this two-part Lookout documentary from 1983, critic Hamish Keith explores how New Zealanders have housed themselves over the 20th Century. This first part builds to 1935: it begins in Auckland War Memorial Museum, with Keith asking how Kiwis would represent themselves if they were curators in the future. He presents the state house as the paramount Kiwi icon, and examines the journey from Victorian slums and Queen Street sewers to villas, bungalows and suburbia; plus the impact on housing of cars, consumerism, influenza, war, depression, and new ideas in town planning.
This documentary charts the voyage from New Zealand to Tahiti of a replica of the HMS Bounty, destined to be the star of Kiwi director Roger Donaldson’s film of the famous mutiny. The boat was built in Whangerei from The Bounty’s original Admiralty plans, commissioned for an unmade David Lean film of the story. It's not all plain sailing as engines fail, the power supply falters and winds drop, but she arrives in Tahiti in time for the first scenes of the Mel Gibson-starring film. A parallel voyage in an open boat by one of Bligh's descendants also features.
This 1983 Hamish Keith-presented documentary is subtitled 'Housing New Zealand in the Twentieth Century'. Part two picks up from Michael Joseph Savage’s 1930s state housing scheme. Keith argues that as the emphasis shifted from renting to owning, middle class suburbia became the foundation of Kiwi postwar aspirations. He looks at changing demographics in the cities — as home owners fled on newly built motorways — and argues that the suburban ideal has become bland and out of reach, as New Zealand once again becomes a country of “mean streets and mansions”.
This 1982 Lookout documentary charts Samoan novelist and poet Albert Wendt’s personal view of Samoans in Auckland. Set mainly in what was then predominantly Samoan Grey Lynn, Wendt looks at how New Zealand-born Samoans maintain the traditions of their homeland. He also examines the close ties between those in New Zealand and the wider ainga, or extended family, back home. The church’s role in the community is highlighted, along with sports. Wendt also addresses what he sees as the double edged sword of remittance: sending money back to islands.
This Contact episode goes behind the scenes on a big budget commercial from the early days of the Kiwi film renaissance: a 1982 Crunchie bar ad which owes so much to Star Wars, the film crew even call their villain Darth. After 12 hour days working inside the Waitomo Caves, a move to Ninety Mile Beach sees the weather playing havoc with sets and schedules. Seeking fresh faces, commercials king Geoff Dixon (Crumpy and Scotty) cast his lead actors in Australia. Television adverts were even made to announce the arrival of the ad — which plays over the closing credits.
Reporter Neil Roberts ventures into South Auckland in this TVNZ documentary, and finds two rapidly growing but very different communities. Otara and Mangere are becoming New Zealand’s industrial powerhouse, but a huge influx of Māori and Pacific Island workers and their families are struggling to adapt in a brand new city that was farmland just decades earlier, and lacks amenities for its new citizens. Meanwhile, to the east, Howick and Pakuranga are also booming but their more upwardly mobile, prosperous and very Pākehā citizens seem to be living in a world of their own.
Presented by Kenneth Cumberland, Landmarks looked at New Zealand history through the landscape — and at man "coming to terms" with it. In this episode Aotearoa's "last, lonely, remote" geography is framed as a stimulus for ingenuity. A narrative of "triumph over the elements" finds its flagbearer in the DIY story of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton. Cumberland is donnish but game in pursuit of telling landmarks: exposing seashells alongside the Napier-Taupō highway (700 metres above sea level) like a downunder Darwin, or in a gas mask on an erupting White Island.
This eighth episode in the Landmarks series was the first episode filmed, to test how geographer Kenneth Cumberland handled being in front of the camera. On a Cook Strait ferry in a southerly, he begins exploring how trade and people have gotten about Aotearoa: from the “Māori main trunk line” (beach, water), sailing ships, Cobb & Co and ‘Shanks's Pony’, to the railways and Bob Semple’s roadmaking bulldozers.The episode ends with the national grid and airways, with a rocky landing at Wellington airport demonstrating that the wrestle with place is an unresolved one.
Landmarks was a major 10-part series that traced the history of New Zealand through its landscape, particularly the impact of human settlement and technology. The concept was modelled on the epic BBC series America. Here a bespectacled, Swannie-wearing geography professor, Kenneth B Cumberland, stands in for Alistair Cooke, interweaving science, history and sweeping imagery to tell the stories of the landscape's "complete transformation". It received a 1982 Feltex Award for Best Documentary and the donnish but game Cumberland became a household name.
While in Tahiti to scout for locations for a film (ultimately unrealised) on the mutiny of the HMS Bounty, legendary British director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago) became fascinated by a lost anchor jettisoned by Captain Cook in 1773. Produced for New Zealand’s South Pacific Television, this film follows the anchor’s discovery — by River Kwai bridge exploder Eddie Fowlie — and salvage. A rare 'documentary' credit for Lean, the film was written by his regular scripting collaborator Robert Bolt; Kiwi Kelly Tarlton provides expert dive guidance.
This edition of TV2’s Sunday documentary slot explores the life of “pioneer woman” Lukre Martinovich. Martinovich departed the Dalmatian coast for New Zealand in 1907, as a 21-year-old mail-order bride. She recounts experiences starting a family of 12, while scraping kauri gum in Northland’s ‘black swamp’. A visit to Otamatea Kauri Museum spurs memories, and some of her 160 descendants gather at Ruawai Bowling Club to celebrate her birthday. Dancing stops for Lukre (also known as Lucy) to follow a punt on the races on the radio, with the local priest on hand as support.
With her election in 1975 at age 23, Marilyn Waring became NZ’s youngest MP. This TV doco, directed by George Andrews, follows her as she settles into parliamentary life and prepares her maiden speech. Waring happily takes guidance on House decorum from a venerable Keith Holyoake, but is unwilling to let her age or inexperience deflect her advocacy for youth and women’s issues. Her relationship with PM Rob Muldoon is already cautious. It will be more confrontational eight years later when she provokes his ill-fated calling of an early election in 1984.
This March 1976 Encounter item catches up on athlete Peter Snell while studying human performance at University of California, Davis — 12 years after his double Olympic triumph in Tokyo. When world champion mile runner John Walker turns up, Snell takes him for a jog, and puts Walker through his paces in the Human Performance Laboratory. The pair muse over life, sport, success, choosing your future, and which of them is the best. The master counsels his heir on the upcoming Montreal Olympics, after Walker expresses fear at becoming the “biggest failure in history".
With the advent of two channel television, Encounter became TV2's local documentary strand showing half-hour programmes at 7.15pm on Sunday nights (although it was later moved to 9.40pm). With a brief to explore "people, places and life in New Zealand today", it featured work made by TV2 staff producers, directors and reporters including Bruce Morrison, George Andrews, Keith Hunter, DOC Williams, Bryan Allpress and Rodney Bryant (who made a number of profiles of prominent New Zealanders). In 1977, it was replaced by Perspective.
This 70s current affairs show does a cost benefit analysis of Trade Minister Warren Freer’s Maximum Retail Price scheme (MRP), which capped retail prices. Drawn from an era of economic theory poles that was apart from the market deregulation of the 80s, the investigation sets out to poll opinion in supermarket aisles, a grocery in Glenorchy, and factory floors (Faggs coffee, Cadbury chocolate). The checkouts are a battlefield between red tape and free range retail. The early animated sequence by Bob Stenhouse marked an early use of animation in a local TV documentary.
In September 1974, NZ reels from the premature loss of Norman Kirk — dead at 51 after just 20 months as prime minister. For this NZBC current affairs show, reporters Joe Coté and George Andrews head to the provinces to find out how Kirk is remembered by the ordinary men and women he valued so much. In less than stellar Labour strongholds in Central Otago and Taranaki, they meet people won over by a politician prepared to listen and treat them as equals. Their palpable affection is shared by Pacific leaders Gough Whitlam, Albert Henry and Michael Somare.
This NZBC news item went to air the day after legendary Prime Minster Norman Kirk passed away. There are tributes (some off-screen) involving everyone from Kissinger, Muldoon and Trudeau to the Queen, and an interview with Deputy PM Hugh Watt. Reporter George Andrews outlines Kirk’s life and career, including footage of Kirk recalling his time working on the Devonport Ferry, and having to break a promise about a Springbok Tour. Andrews charts Kirk's rapid political rise, including becoming the country’s youngest mayor, and the mark he made on the international stage.
In 1973 the focus of NZBC’s current affairs programming was under pressure to be reshaped (from the new Labour Government). Long-running show Gallery was to provide follow-up and explanation of current events, and Inquiry was to be a weekly film programme that provided more in-depth treatment of topical issues. Inquiry programmes had a three week turnaround for research, editing and broadcasting; Geoff Walker, Alan Brady and Joe Coté were the initial reporters. Topics covered included a wide-ranging 1974 survey of women in politics: ‘Nothing Venture, Nothing Gain’.
Current affairs show Gallery took on controversial topics of the day, most famously in a Brian Edwards interview which solved a Post Office industrial dispute live on-air. Produced by Des Monaghan, it began as a studio-based programme that discussed political issues, but was soon expanded. Edwards’ confrontational style of interrogating public figures was new to New Zealand TV, and polarised viewers. It saw Edwards (the "mad mauler") become a household name, and earned him a reputation as a hardline interviewer. He was succeeded as host by David Exel.