Rotorua Lookabout

Short Film, 1969 (Full Length)

This 1969 film promotes the attractions, industry and history of “contemporary Rotorua”, from the Arawa canoe to forestry, from mud pool hangi to the Ward baths (“heavenly for hangovers”). The score is jazz, and the narration is flavoured by the impressive baritone of opera singer Inia Te Wiata (father of actress Rima), who gushes about geysers and Rotorua’s evolution from sleepy tourist backwater to modern city and conference centre. Also featured: kapa haka, meter maids in traditional Māori dress, and a rendition of classic song ‘Me He Manu Rere’ in a meeting house jive.

A Summer Place

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

This beautifully shot documentary is a social and architectural history of the great NZ bach (or crib, for those south of the Waitaki). Maggie Barry tracks their evolution from workers’ cottages to a fully fledged icon in danger of extinction: as the blind eye turned by councils that made them possible becomes a thing of the past, and the coastline becomes too valuable to allow ‘just anyone’ to erect a shack on it. The Kiwi spirit that created the building is celebrated. The bach enthusiasts interviewed include Sam Hunt, Keri Hulme, Karl Stead and Rawiri Paratene.

The Great New Zealand 1kg of Cheese

Short Film, 1985 (Full Length)

This 1985 promotional film for the New Zealand Dairy Board catalogues diversifying taste in cheese as Kiwis move beyond the big block of cheddar. New varieties — feta, brie, camembert — are pitched as part of an evolution towards a more exotic and ‘gourmet’ culinary culture. A camel-riding Catherine Saunders looks at the process of how cheese is made in NZ; a highlight is the making of blue vein mould, and fondue gets a mention (“gruyère is best”). The film opens with an ad anointing “the great New Zealand 1Kg!” alongside a line-up of iconic Kiwi measurements.

The Nightwatchman

Short Film, 1993 (Full Length)

Set in a world where animal is vegetable and the creepy crawlies are just that, this short film showcases the trippy talents of animators Joe Wylie (Kiwi classics Te Rerenga Wairua, Bride of Frankenstein) and John Robertson (internationally lauded for his commercials work). Following a nightwatchman whose meddling kicks evolution into overdrive at the pesticide factory, the film injects a chirruping, clanking ambient score into a petri dish of Naked Lunch, The Fly and and some B-movie black comedy. It was selected for France's Annecy Animation Festival in 1993.

Radicals

Television, 1997 (Full Length)

This 1997 Inside New Zealand documentary looks at the evolution of modern Māori political activism, from young 70s rebels Ngā Tamatoa, to Te Kawariki's protest at Waitangi Day in 1995. Directed by Paora Maxwell, it is framed around interviews with key figures (Syd Jackson, Hone Harawira, Ken Mair, Mike Smith, Annette Sykes, Eva Rickard, Joe Hawke). The interviewees explore events, and the kaupapa behind their activism, from thoughts on sovereignty, and the Treaty of Waitangi, through to symbolism (tree felling, land marches) and being kaitiaki of the environment. 

Skin and Bone

Television, 2003 (Full Length)

Twenty three years after Foreskin's Lament became a Kiwi cause célèbre, writer Greg McGee brought his classic play to television. Skin and Bone "asset strips" and updates the story to reflect rugby (and society's) evolution. Here Seymour (Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr) — falteringly pursuing a professional career — returns home to play a last game for his rural club side. The brutality he witnesses leaves him questioning the morals of the code. The role of the old guard coach is reprised by Roy Billing, in McGee's opinion "the first and definitive Tupper".

Making Music - Moana Maniapoto

Short Film, 2005 (Full Length)

Singer Moana Maniapoto discusses her evolution as a Māori musician in this episode from a series for high school music students. After first singing in public on the marae and learning to harmonise at school, she paid her way through university by singing in nightclubs. She describes her epiphany in a Detroit church as she realised that she needed to sing Māori songs rather than keep trying to emulate American soul and r'n'b divas. An acoustic performance of 'Hine Te Iwaiwa' (from her Toru album) is followed by a demonstration of traditional instruments. 

New Zild - The Story of New Zealand English

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

New Zealand's unique accent is often derided across the dutch for its vowel-mangling pronunciation ("sex fush'n'chups", anyone?) and being too fast-paced for tourists and Elton John to understand. In this documentary Jim Mora follows the evolution of New Zealand English, from the "colonial twang" to Billy T James. Linguist Elizabeth Gordon explains the infamous HRT (High Rising Terminal) at the end of sentences, and Mora interprets such phrases as "air gun" ("how are you going?"). Lynn of Tawa also features, in an accent face-off with Sam Neill and Judy Bailey.

Sons for the Road

Television, 2004 (Excerpts)

Auckland's Massive Company began in 1998 as a youth theatre group, committed to developing multicultural talent. Sons for the Road records a big moment in their evolution: performing at London's Royal Court Theatre, whose long history includes launching another piece of cross-cultural fertilisation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Their play is The Sons of Charlie Paora, a tale of rugby players and troubled male identity developed by Massive and UK writer Lennie James (who would later join the cast of hit The Walking Dead). The Independent called the play "wonderfully engaging".

Walkshort

Short Film, 1987 (Full Length)

This classic short film provides an unusual showcase for Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair, the founders of musical theatre group The Front Lawn. The slice of life narrative unravels like a baton relay; the duo play every character,  revolving around pedestrians on Auckland's Karangahape Road. Walkshort was directed by editor Bill Toepfer. Sinclair went on to do some directing of his own (Topless Women Talk about their Lives), while McGlashan would pay musical tribute to another famous Auckland street, Dominion Road. Costa Botes writes about Walkshort here.