Russell Campbell has been analysing film and television for more than four decades. A longtime lecturer in film at Victoria University, Campbell’s books include Observations, a volume on New Zealand documentary — a field in which he has extensive first-hand experience.
For the future, I look to films that employ the energy and imagination [Hamish] Keith speaks of to describe our country accurately, pitilessly: that delight in beauty and achievement, but bear witness too to cruelty and injustice ... Russell Campbell in Observations, on the future of New Zealand documentary
Moa-nominated for Best Documentary, this full-length title chronicles two decades of political football between New Zealanders hoping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and followers of the business as usual approach. Co-directing with his longtime editor Abi King-Jones, Alister Barry (The Hollow Men) continues his patented approach of melding new interviews with raids on the news archives. Critic Graeme Tuckett argued that the film makes “a compelling case that although the science was settled by 1990, we’ve allowed politics and corporations to mute our response to a very real crisis”.
Sedition - The Suppression of Dissent in World War II New Zealand chronicles the experiences of Kiwi pacifists during wartime. New laws affecting meetings, mail and media coverage meant that talking about pacifism could result in arrest, and imprisonment. By June 1940, holding more than one copy of a 'subversive' magazine could mean nine months hard labour. Ironically many of the MPs backing the laws had earlier been imprisoned for their anti-war beliefs; while Christian Pacifist Society leader Ormond Burton was twice decorated for bravery during World War I.
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
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".
One of those Blighters began life as a doco on Taranaki novelist Ronald Hugh Morrieson, but after interviews with many who knew him, morphed into something more offbeat: a semi-fictionalised tale of Morrieson’s mates reminiscing about his departure, interwoven with highlights from his tales of drunkards and con artists. The dramatisations are from his four novels - all became movies - plus one posthumously published short story. Amidst a cast packed to the rafters with carousing Kiwi screen legends, fellow multi-talented muso Bruno Lawrence plays Morrieson.