Psychology graduate Justin Pemberton's screen persona can be split into two. His documentary work includes two Qantas award-winners: motor-racing story Love, Speed and Loss and 2007's The Nuclear Comeback, plus acclaimed Kiwi Olympic saga The Golden Hour. He has also worked on many music projects, from the video for Bic Runga hit Drive to documentaries on the NZSO and Anika Moa.
Its makers deserve gold medals ... this was our Chariots of Fire. Just hope they show it to the team in London. Russell Baillie reviewing The Golden Hour, The NZ Herald 26 July 2012
This feature documentary follows All Black Richie McCaw on his 2015 quest to become the first skipper to defend the Webb Ellis Cup. Directors Justin Pemberton (The Golden Hour) and Michelle Walshe were given unprecedented access to the subject to create a portrait of McCaw the person, and chronicle the psychology of achievement in international sport. McCaw saw the chance to “inspire some young kids” as the reason to take part, and end his policy of keeping “the private stuff private”. The film's opening day set an NZ record for a local doco; in its first week, it beat all competition.
The Five Eyes spy network was set up after WWll to monitor and share intelligence between the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and NZ. According to this interactive documentary, the network sought a new justification for its existence after the Soviet Union's collapse, and found it in digital communications. Narrated by Lucy Lawless, I Spy aims to inform viewers about just what their local intelligence agencies are up to. Interviewees include journalist Nicky Hager and former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden. I Spy was funded by a joint Canadian-NZ Digital Media Fund.
Tickled sounds like a comedy, but the film traces a path from quirky to the stuff of fear, mystery and intimidation. The documentary began when then TV3 reporter David Farrier saw a cash offer for athletes to fly to Los Angeles for 'Competitive Endurance Tickling'. Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve headed to the United States, and found ticklers scared to go on camera — and threats from those behind the scenes. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Tickled quickly won rave reviews and sales; Vogue and The Hollywood Reporter named it one of 2016's ten best documentaries.
This documentary tells the story of NZ sport’s ‘golden hour’, when on 2 September 1960 in Rome, two Arthur Lydiard-coached running men won Olympic gold: 21-year-old Peter Snell in the 800m, and Murray Halberg in the 5000m shortly after. The outlier triumph tale mixes archive footage with recreations and candid interviews (Halberg’s battle with disability and doubt is poignant). NZ Herald critic Russell Baillie praised the result as “riveting” and “our Chariots of Fire”. It screened on TV prior to London 2012 and was nominated for a 2013 International Emmy Award.
Frequent collaborators singer Anika Moa and director Justin Pemberton cross paths again for the music video of Moa's 'Standing in this Fire' from her 2008 album In Swings the Tide, her first, slightly countrified album for EMI. In a tastefully furnished room, Moa wakes in a bed of chocolate satin sheets only to find the day is nearly done for her and the mysterious bedmate sleeping next to her. Moa exhorts her lover, “please don't be mean to me 'cos I really tried ...”, before stripping the duvet off the relationship to see what's underneath.
Love, Speed and Loss is an extended documentary about racer Kim Newcombe, who turned heads in the 70s on a König motorbike he developed and designed himself. Built around home movie footage and interviews with his charismatic, straight-talking widow Janeen, the film follows the couple's travels across Europe, and triumph on the track. Newcombe was killed racing in 1973, and posthumously finished second in that year's World 500cc Championship. Love, Speed and Loss won best documentary at the 2007 Qantas TV Awards and Air NZ Screen gongs for documentary, directing, and editing.
This Anika Moa video puts the drama of her early rise in a nutshell; after being signed to Atlantic, the American label flew a director down to New Zealand to monitor proceedings, and ensure that the singer looked as slim on screen as possible. The video sees Moa lusting after every male she passes, singing beside some rugby posts, and taking a ride in a taxi driven by actor Antony Starr (Outrageous Fortune). As for Moa, she soon returned home from the US; the local top five hit ended up on the soundtrack of Catherine Zeta-Jones/Julia Roberts romance America’s Sweethearts.
The Shipwreck series told dramatic stories of mystery, heroism and tragedy at sea while exploring eleven of the notable shipwrecks in NZ's maritime history. In each episode tales of buried treasure, massacre, death and survival are evocatively retold, and presented by actor Paul Gittins. Wreck stories included The Boyd, The Orpheus and The Ariadne. This Greenstone Pictures production won Best Information Programme at the 2000 Qantas Media Awards.
When Bic Runga broke out in 1996, 'Drive' was the lead single from her hit album of the same name. Opting to stay with the simplicity of her original demo clearly paid off: the song earned then 20-year-old Runga the 1996 APRA Silver Scroll Songwriting Award. Director Justin Pemberton wisely creates a video that matches the song. Alternating black and white with colour provides a moody feel without drawing attention to itself, leaving Runga to deliver a delicate performance on a song that would have a major impact on her career.
Director Justin Pemberton takes this love song by Paul Casserly and Fiona McDonald (from fourth Strawpeople album Vicarious) and transforms it into an exercise in noir influenced, brooding unease. His video takes place over a night at a rural motel (with McDonald as a receptionist, and Casserly up to no good with a range of medical equipment). A tarot card-reading, yoga-practising new-ager, a traveller with unexplained cages, and random appearances from stringed instrument-playing senior citizens contribute to the growing sense of disquiet.
Kiwi music show Music Nation introduced young presenter Bic Runga to the nation, shortly before she took her microphone skills in another direction. In this debut episode, the show's 'field reporter' Ian Hughes (aka Hugh Sundae) interviews winners at the 31st NZ Music Awards, while Runga introduces many of the accompanying videos. There are double helpings of Supergroove, who took away five awards on the night, and Che Fu sings a thank you speech a cappella. But there are murmurs of discontent over Purest Form taking the public vote for best single.
Long before the website of the same name, Music Nation was a mid 90s television show devoted to Kiwi music. Hosted by Hugh Sundae and Bic Runga — shortly before Runga's debut album Drive conquered the nation — the show mixed video clips and interviews. Modelled loosely on legendary Sunday night music show Radio With Pictures, Music Nation was produced by former RWP hosts Karyn Hay and Richard Driver. Two seasons, each running 13 episodes, went to air.
Condemned as "designer news" before it had even been to air, Newsnight was TV2's foray into late night news for a younger audience (with one eye on the success of TV3's Nightline). Strongly influenced by the celebrity and human interest focus of women's magazines, it received an unsuccessful BSA complaint for not covering a major story (a teacher's strike). Simon Dallow made his TV debut alongside Lorelei Mason and then Alison Mau — while Marcus Lush's idiosyncratic take on the world earned the show a degree of cult (if not always critical) success.