Using the power of documentary film Frank Chilton made a difference to the lives of disabled children in New Zealand and around the world. The films he directed for the National Film Unit won many awards and he was honoured by the Queen with an OBE for services to the handicapped.

I saw a great deal of misery and hardship suffered by children in a dozen different countries and the documentary film is one of the best ways of spreading the medical knowledge to help them. Frank Chilton, cited in the column 'As I Was Saying' by Max Whatman. Christchurch Star, 26 January 1970, page 4.

To Help a Crippled Child

1972, Editor, Writer, Director - Short Film

This 1972 NFU documentary looks at the care of children born with physical disabilities. Aimed at families with ‘crippled’ children, the film was directed by Frank Chilton for the Crippled Children Society (now CCS Disability Action). Parents, doctors, teachers and field officers are shown engaging with children and young adults at home and in the community, from spring-loaded splints for spina bifida patients to Māori stick games as therapy for cerebral palsy. It is introduced by Mrs New Zealand 1970, Alison Henry (whose son was born with a congenital foot defect).

A Baby on the Way

1971, Editor, Director, Writer - Short Film

Made for the Plunket Society by the NFU, A Baby on the Way uses a blackboard and various experts in front of an antenatal class to provide birth education for early 70s Kiwi parents-to-be. Plunket Medical Director Neil Begg lowers his pipe to introduce the lessons, and contemporary advice for ensuring a mother’s health during pregnancy is given by doctors, nurses, and physios. The scenes involving breast massage and analgesics may have induced titters in school-aged audiences, unlike the brief-but-gory concluding birth (set to piped organ music).


1970, Writer, Editor, Director - Short Film

Recovering from a Coronary

1970, Writer, Editor, Director - Short Film

Made for the National Heart Foundation, this 1970 documentary shows “a rehabilitation programme for patients with coronary heart disease”, devised by Otago University Medical School and the NZ School of Physiotherapy. The film is framed around a doctor addressing a class of nursing students, and follows a “coronary club” of patients through PE rehab to being able to work, garden and play golf again. The film also imparts general health lessons to avoid heart disease (exercise, quit smoking, lose weight). It was made by the National Film Unit.

A Deaf Child in the Family

1969, Director, Writer, Editor - Short Film

Winner of multiple awards, this 40 minute film aims to teach families how to manage communication with a deaf child. Narrator Peter Brian guides young families through the steps they can take to ensure their deaf child is able to develop speech and communication as effectively as possible. The documentary includes interviews with two deaf adults living full lives. In an early example of crowdfunding, a sponsorship body was set up to fund A Deaf Child in the Family. It was one of a number of shorts written and directed by Frank Chilton which focussed on people living with disabilities.

Drive with Prudence

1968, Camera, Director, Editor, Writer - Short Film

The Coronation of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga

1968, Camera - Short Film

Taufa'ahau Tupou IV was crowned King of Tonga on his 49th birthday. This NFU film covers the lead up to and the entire ceremony on 4 July 1967. It was the first coronation in the island kingdom since Tupou’s mother, Queen Sālote, in 1918. Tongans from the outer islands had been arriving in the capital Nuku'alofa for a month. Dignitaries included the Duke and Duchess of Kent and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, plus opposition leader Norman Kirk. Director Derek Wright covers the ceremony with decorum, reflecting the dignity of the occasion.

Asthma and Your Child

1967, Writer, Editor, Director - Short Film

This 1967 NFU instructional film demonstrates breathing exercises developed by Bernice ‘Bunny’ Thompson, to help children suffering from asthma and bronchitis. The film was based on the pioneering physiotherapist's 1963 book of the same name. Director Frank Chilton won renown for his documentaries dealing with the health and welfare needs of children. Asthma and Your Child was commissioned by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation, and was an early example of a privately-funded socially-useful film. The animation of respiratory processes is by Morrow Productions.

The Cook Islands Look Ahead

1965, Editor, Director, Writer, Camera - Short Film

The Glacier Climbers

1964, Editor, Director, Writer, Camera - Short Film

"The story of a four-day journey from Westland to Canterbury, across the Southern Alps." Narration from the four climbers accompanies spectacular alpine imagery in this classic NFU film. In crevasse country they rope up and climb to "half way across the frozen roof of New Zealand" and share a can of tinned pineapple as reward. At Malte Brun Hut they meet Sir Edmund Hillary, Murray Ellis and Harry Ayres, and they descend together down the Tasman Glacier. Ayres reflects on the Alps as training ground for famous polar and Everest expeditions.

University of Canterbury

1964, Camera, Editor, Director, Writer - Short Film


1964, Writer, Camera, Director, Editor - Short Film

The Early Treatment of Cerebral Palsy

1963, Editor, Director, Camera - Short Film

Developmental Tests in the Early Diagnosis
 of Cerebral Palsy

1962, Camera, Director, Writer, Editor - Short Film

Independent Samoa

1962, Writer - Short Film

Plebiscite Day, Western Samoa

1961, Director, Editor, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 120 - Samoan Family

1961, Director, Writer, Editor - Short Film

This 1961 Pictorial Parade visits Western Samoa shortly before it gains independence from Aotearoa. Locals are seen voting in the May referendum, where a huge majority voted for self-rule. Surgeon Ioane Okesene and his large family feature in this newsreel; daughter Karaponi is seen marrying her Kiwi partner Bill McGrath in Apia. (Trivia fact: Rugby legend Michael Jones' mother, Maina Jones, is among the wedding guests.) Western Samoa's close ties to Aotearoa are highlighted, with stories of Samoans moving downunder to study, such as home science student Margaret Stehlin. 

Skylarks over Simon's Hill

1960, Director, Editor, Camera, Writer - Short Film

A New Day in Samoa

1959, Camera, Director - Short Film

Born in New Zealand

1958, Writer, Editor, Director, Camera - Short Film

This National Film Unit production was made to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Plunket Society. Plunket — aka ‘Karitane’ — nursing is a New Zealand system of ante-natal and post-natal care for mothers and infants, founded by Sir Truby King: “the man who saved the babies”. Featuring original nurse Joanne MacKinnon, the film follows Plunket from a time of high infant mortality to providing contemporary nursing to a New Zealand flush with postwar optimism: “a family country, where children grow happily in the fresh air and sunshine.”

Music While You Walk

1958, Writer, Director - Short Film

Fiji Battalion Comes Home

1957, Editor, Writer, Director, Camera - Short Film

This Dog is Dangerous

1957, Writer, Director, Editor - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 45 - Roxburgh Work-Day

1956, Director, Camera - Short Film

The Treatment of Cerebral Palsy in New Zealand

1955, Writer, Editor, Director - Film

This 65 minute long documentary looks at the treatment of New Zealand children born with cerebral palsy (a set of conditions which affect motor control, caused by brain defects that typically occur around pregnancy and birth). Made for the Department of Health, the National Film Unit production visits a specialist unit in Rotorua, to praise the understanding and care applied to help the ‘cerebral palsied’ live full lives. Director Frank Chilton was made an OBE for services to handicapped children. This film won a Diploma of Merit at the 1957 Edinburgh Film Festival.

The Navy and the Royal Tour

1954, Camera - Short Film

Royal Visit to Fiji

1954, Editor, Writer, Director, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 16 - Royal Tour Special - The Queen’s Christmas

1954, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 17 - Royal Tour Special - Northland to Waikato

1954, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 18 - Royal Tour Special - Her Majesty at Rotorua

1954, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 19 - Royal Tour Special - Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Wellington

1954, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 20 - Royal Tour Special - Across Cook Strait

1954, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 21 - Royal Tour Special - Canterbury, Otago, Southland and Farewell!

1954, Camera - Short Film

Royal Visit to the Kingdom of Tonga

1954, Camera, Director - Short Film

This is the official film of the Royal visit to Queen Sālote's Kingdom in 1954, made by the National Film Unit for the Tongan Government. There is comprehensive coverage of the welcome, traditional ceremonies and feasting, dancing and singing, the church service, and the farewell. The young, recently coronated, Queen Elizabeth and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, leave the 'friendly islands' on the Royal liner Gothic, which will continue on to New Zealand.

Pictorial Parade No. 15 - Royal Tour Special - Fijian Welcome, Weekend in Tonga

1953, Camera - Short Film

Pictorial Parade No. 8 - New Zealand Celebrates Coronation

1953, Director, Writer - Short Film

The Cathedral Bells ring out in Christchurch as New Zealand celebrates the coronation of Elizabeth II. Inside the cathedral and in other places of worship, like the chapel at Longbeach Estate (near Ashburton) and the picturesque St James church at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier, the faithful give thanks (including pioneering mountain guides Peter and Alex Graham). Outside, the day is marked by processions and military parades in the main centres (filmed on 2 June 1953). In Wellington Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie commands "God Save the Queen!"

Stanlow Story

1952, Camera - Film

Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

1952, Writer, Editor, Camera, Director - Short Film


1952, Camera, Writer, Editor - Short Film

Tuberculosis and the Māori People of the Wairoa District

1952, Editor - Short Film

Tuberculosis and the Māori People of the Wairoa District was screened for the first time in 1952. It is one of many health education films made, but was unique in that it was a collaborative production involving the New Zealand Department of Health, the Ngāti Kahungungu Tribal District Committee and the National Film Unit. At this time, the death rate for Māori from TB was 10 times that of Pākehā. Turi Carroll (knighted in 1962) a respected Ngāti Kahungunu leader, narrates much of the film.

Ocean Weather Ship

1947, Director, Camera - Short Film