The Years Back was a 13-part documentary series made for television by the National Film Unit and first broadcast in 1973. Covering six decades from 1900 to 1960, it was promoted as "people and events that shaped the New Zealand of today", and content was largely influenced by what historic film had survived. Presented by Bernard Kearns, fascinating footage (including the 1931 Napier Earthquake and Jack Lovelock’s 1936 Olympic triumph) is accompanied by interviewees recalling or commenting on past events, big and small, as they unfold on the screen.
This mid '70s ad campaign, made by the National Film Unit for the Tourist and Publicity Department, was aimed at the domestic market and offers nostalgic delights aplenty. 'Nightlife' focused on city bars and clubs, and 'Oldies' showcased options for retirees (scenic bus tours). Another version urged families to ditch the car (amidst the oil crisis) and take public transport to see the country; and in a classic of the genre pop star Craig Scott was a beach pied piper for adoring young Kiwis: "We're in God's own country, we gotta take the tiiiime ...".
The National Film Unit was set up in 1941 to publicise New Zealand’s war effort. The unit’s output soon evolved into the Weekly Review, a weekly reel screened in cinemas. Confusingly the first Weekly Review in October 1942 was named No. 60. It was the principal NZ film series produced in the 1940s. The series ended in August 1950 with the 459th issue. The reviews were a mix of newsreel and general interest stories and occasionally, full-reel documentaries. Some were later re-issued (without the Weekly Review title) for screening in educational and overseas markets.
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.
Rangatira was a five-part doco series that aired on TVNZ in 1998. Rangatira means ‘chief’ and the series profiles the lives and achievements of five Māori leaders: decorated war hero Sir Charles Bennett; visionary educationist Professor Whatarangi Winiata; pioneering film-maker Merata Mita; Māori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples; and former Act MP Donna Awatere-Huata. Archive footage is cut with extensive interviews with the subjects, whānau, and colleagues, while the impressive production credits include Don Selwyn, Tainui Stephens, Derek Fox and Larry Parr.
This 2012 JAM TV series followed media personality Jaquie Brown as she confronted the travails of 21st Century motherhood, raising her first child Leo. Directed by Jane Andrews, the series mixed a video diary (sleep deprivation, poop and occasional joy), with reenactments, interviews, and archive material. Brown had earlier written a cheeseburger crotch n’all chronicle of her pregnancy, I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant. The six-part series was filmed for two half-days a week, over a year. It screened on TV One on Wednesdays at 8pm.
Four-part series Revolution mapped sweeping social and economic change in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. Described as a “journalist's assembly” by its makers, it collected together interviews with the major players and archive footage. Producer Marcia Russell: “We wanted to make Revolution because we believed that unless we re-run and re-examine our recent history we are in constant danger of forgetting, and forgetting can render us passive about the present and slaves of the future.” It won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.
Queer Nation was a factual series made by, for and about lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) New Zealanders. Produced by Livingstone Productions with John A Givins at the helm, it screened on TVNZ for 11 seasons over nine years from 1996 till 2004 and was the world's longest running free-to-air TV programme made for the LGBT community. Long-serving presenters included original host (and future NZ On Screen ScreenTalk director) Andrew Whiteside, Libby Magee and Nettie Kinmott. Queer Nation won Best Factual Series at the NZ Television Awards 2003.