When Vince Pierson’s old comrades tried to track him down, years after the Korean War, they couldn’t find him. Pierson had taken another surname when he joined up, to disguise the fact that at 19, he was underage. As a gunner attached to HQ, he was with the New Zealand artillery supporting Australian and Canadian infantry at the Battle of Kapyong. Pierson belies his 85 years with sharp recall and vivid stories of people and places. He shows as much empathy for the Koreans as for his comrades, while describing battling intense cold and stifling heat — and the other side.
In this full-length Intrepid Journey actor/director Katie Wolfe takes her "appalling sense of direction" to China, a country caught between old ways and new. Wolfe travels by plane, boat, cyclo and train, which she calls "the perfect way to travel". She does three days in the Blade Runner-like cityscapes of Shanghai, where she meets an 86-year-old dancer, and visits the Forbidden City of Beijing. Wolfe also heads up the Yangtze River, visiting ghostly cities and apartment blocks, drained of people by major dam construction — before stumbling upon a most effective way to haggle.
TVNZ’s 80s arts programme follows a Royal NZ Ballet visit to China in this documentary directed by Keith Hunter. The trip is billed as a cultural exchange but the term belies the stresses of missing equipment, a director who has lost his voice, language barriers, incorporating a local seven-year-old girl into their performance and, for some, the dishes at a banquet. On a rare day off, there’s a chance to marvel at the scale of the The Great Wall; and there are insights into the everyday lives of the Chinese people as the country begins to open itself up to the world.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.