A Political Game charts not only intense rugby rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand, but also the politics of racism that came increasingly to the fore. The signs were there during the Springboks first tour of New Zealand in 1921: a South African reporter was outraged white New Zealanders had supported a Māori side. In 1976 an All Black tour of South Africa sparked an African boycott of the Montreal Olympics; the 1981 tour saw violent protests. Starting with the historic All Blacks win in 1996, this excerpt jumps back in time to chart conflicts on and off the field, up until 1949.
This final edition of the 1992 celebration of New Zealand Rugby runs from grand slam success to the cusp of the professional era. But in-between, rugby and politics combusted. When the Springboks, representing apartheid South Africa, toured NZ in 1981, barbed wire, flour bombs and riot police were match fixtures. Kiwis were either for or against. The tour’s aftermath and public disillusionment with the sport found relief in 1987, when the All Blacks won the first Rugby World Cup; three undefeated years followed. Three NZRFU centennial tests close the series.
All Black Ranji Wilson was 30 when he set off for France to fight with the Rifle Brigade during WWl. When he wasn't involved with trench warfare, his rugby skills were used to full advantage. Wilson vice captained the "Trench Blacks" to win against the French in 1918. After France (where he was injured at the Battle of Havrincourt), Wilson visited South Africa but wasn't allowed to play rugby because he was "coloured". Wilson, whose father was West Indian, became an All Black selector on his return to New Zealand and died in Lower Hutt in 1953.
Playwright Roger Hall visits Uganda in Africa for this Intrepid Journey. He finds the going tough at times, particularly some rough accommodation and worries about malaria, but delights that he got to see lions and gorillas in their natural habitat, and is moved by the efforts of the Ugandan people to triumph over their "hideous recent history". This excerpt sees Hall white water rafting on the Nile, and getting a memorable warning speech about one of the rapids by a guide. He "loses his Nile virginity" after getting tipped out, and ending up under the raft for a few scary seconds.
The 'art star' is renowned contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft; this film follows her from Africa to New York and Europe in her efforts to adopt two orphaned Sudanese twins. How the process impacts on her art and personal life, and the contradictions of her mission, are provokingly documented by director Pietra Brettkelly. Art Star won best doco, director and editing at 2009's Qantas Film and TV Awards and was selected for multiple festivals, including Sundance. LA Times: "a brutally honest, remarkably self-critical reflection on foreign adoption".
In this feisty late 1976 The Friday Conference interview, host Gordon Dryden holds Prime Minister Muldoon to account over his 1975 election pledges. Dryden challenges Muldoon’s touting of freedom (amidst price freezes, wage controls and an All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa), and the PM's description of himself as a liberal (with heated talk about insults traded during the Colin Moyle affair). Dryden evokes the spectre of the McCarthy era, and a pugnacious Muldoon invokes “the ordinary bloke”. Muldoon later refused to be interviewed by Dryden again for the show.
John Wilkinson didn’t realise until after the end of World War ll that he’d broken his back when the plane he was piloting in North Africa was shot down. Captured and beaten up by Italian soldiers, interrogated by the Gestapo, John eventually ended up in the notorious Stalag Luft III prison camp in what is now Poland. He was involved in the Wooden Horse Escape, one of the most famous of the war. Later he would meet his future wife at the camp, a displaced person from Lithuania. Now 95, John’s memory of his wartime experiences remains undimmed.
Some argue that if the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand had been halted from the outset, the impact on the hearts and minds of South Africans would not have been as profound. This Leanne Pooley-directed film aims to show how events in Aotearoa (captured in Merata Mita's documentary Patu!) played out in South Africa; how the tour protests energized blacks, shamed the regime, and provoked democratic change. Says Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "You really can't even compute its value, it said the world has not forgotten us, we are not alone."
In 1993 Paul Holmes travelled to the UK to meet Margaret Thatcher, who had recently authored "clear and vivid" memoir The Downing Street Years. In this hour-long interview, the outspoken former PM talks NZ anti-nuclear policy (bad), Communism (evil), and sanctions in South Africa (pointless). The horrors of Bosnia, she argues, show what happens when consensus politics win out over strong leadership. An iron lady explosion is only narrowly avoided after Holmes probes Thatcher on David Lange’s comment that meeting her was like being addressed by a Nazi orator.
The second episode of this 1992 celebration of New Zealand rugby looks at the period from 1925 - 1956, as depression and war affected the national game. Scrum rules changed — outlawing the wing forward position, pioneered by the Kiwis — and NZ found itself chasing the pack: the no-longer-invincible All Blacks regularly came out losers playing against South Africa. The Springbok was finally felled in a series by the Kiwis in 1956 (played at home in front of huge, manic crowds). All Black Peter Jones famously summed it up the achievement post match: “I’m absolutely buggered”.