This documentary series was presented by the legendary Selwyn Toogood. These New Zealanders was one of Toogood's first appearances for television, having previously become a household name as a radio host. The National Film Unit production was part-documentary, part-magazine, and part-travelogue, and took Toogood to six towns to capture their character and people. The towns visited were Gore, Benmore, Motueka, Huntly, Gisborne and Taupō. It provides a fascinating perspective of New Zealand life in the 1960s.
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 ...".
New Zealand Mirror was a National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series aimed at a British theatrical audience. Mostly re-packaging Weekly Review and later, Pictorial Parade content for receptive UK eyes, it also generated a small amount of original content. The series covered items showcasing NZ to a British market and as such has some interest as a post-war representation of New Zealand's burgeoning sense of national identity, from peg-legged Kiwis and children feeding eels, to the discovery of moa bones, to pianist Richard Farrell.
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.
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.
Produced by the National Film Unit, New Zealand Now was a companion series to New Zealand Mirror. Both were aimed at overseas cinemas as general publicity for NZ, New Zealand Now dealing with specific subjects, the latter with multiple-item magazine reels. Subjects ranged from the RNZAF, sport and the Whanganui River to bushmen. Most of the New Zealand Now films were made in 1951 and 1952, before the launch of the NFU's long-running series Pictorial Parade. Completed in 1956, the 13th and last film intended for the series was ultimately released shorn of the New Zealand Now title.
This was a three-part series mapping the history of aviation in New Zealand: from DIY pioneers (Richard Pearse, the Walsh bros), via the formation of the RNZAF and NAC, to contemporary aviators. Flying Kiwi heroes (Sir Francis Chichester, Jean Batten) are profiled, along with innovation stirred by the NZ environment: flying boats, ski-planes and top-dressers. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, with veteran Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) directing, the series was made by the National Film Unit for TV, which by the 80s had replaced cinemas as an NFU outlet.
Land of Birds was a series of 10 films looking at Aotearoa’s manu or native birds. Produced by the National Film Unit, the series was written, directed and largely photographed by Grant Foster. It was New Zealand’s first natural history film series, showing on NZ TV and internationally. The first instalment — Bird of a Single Flight (presented by Dr Robert Falla, on the kōtuku colony at Ōkārito) — won a 1973 Feltex Award for Best Natural History Programme. Other topics included Royal Albatross (toroa), and The Honeyeaters (tui, bellbird/korimako, stichbird/hihi).
In this five part series presenter Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand's most varied, awe-inspiring and spiritual environments. Though there is superbly filmed flora and fauna, geology and other standard natural history documentary staples, it is the history of people's relationship with these sublime landscapes and a genial New Zealand passion for the environment, that makes a lasting impression. At the 1988 Listener Film and TV Awards Hayden won Best Writer in a Non-Drama Category for the series.