If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.
A talkback radio operator (Lucy Sheehan) is forced to stand in for the regular host when he walks out because of a personal crisis. In between trying to answer calls, organize a replacement and discuss odd topics with a succession of callers, the flustered operator makes a surprising connection with another lost soul. Auckland's urban soul is captured with distinctive assurance in this neglected 48-minute drama from director Alison Maclean — who wrote the script with Geoff Chapple.
A dark and mystery-filled drama about a 70s hippy (Danielle Cormack) who falls in love with a Vietnam vet (Kevin Smith). But has fate brought them together, only in order to drive them apart? And what exactly happened to their child? This twist-filled tale of seances, damaged people, and conflicting versions of truth marked the directorial debut of short filmmaker Christine Parker. At the 1999 New Zealand film awards, Channelling Baby was nominated in six categories, including best actress and best original screenplay. Read more about the film here.
Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
Director John Bates' 1993 documentary examines the life and work of photographer Robin Morrison, who captured iconic images of everyday New Zealand life and landscape. Part biography, part travelogue, the film goes on the road with Morrison to revisit some of his best-loved locations. Stunningly shot by Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano) before Morrison died on 12 March 1993, Sense of Place won Best Documentary at the 1994 New Zealand Film and Television awards, and a certificate of merit at the 37th San Francisco International Film Festival.
This fresh, unhurried film is drawn from a substantial interview with renowned writer Janet Frame by Michael Noonan; filmed largely at at Frame’s then-home on Whangaparoa Peninsula. It was part of the Three New Zealanders series made to commemorate the 1975 International Year of Women — an early John Barnett production. The rare footage of Frame — here aged 50 — presents a confident writer in her prime, and negates any stereotypes about Frame's inarticulacy or shyness. Note: the segments from the programme dramatising some of Frame’s work are not included here.
During his last session on air, a veteran radio announcer (played by David Corbalis) finds himself on a quest through the streets and sewers. His mission: to retrieve a special record, in time to play it for a devoted listener. Signing Off was made by Nightmare Productions, a team of Dunedin filmmakers. The success of this comical, high energy short film helped lead to Scarfies, the feature debut of Nightmare team member Rob Sarkies (Scarfies, Out of the Blue). A big seller overseas, Signing Off won awards at film festivals from Dresden to Montreal.
A homage to Dusky Maiden images as well as a playful take on the low art of velvet painting, Sima Urale’s Velvet Dreams provides a tongue-in-cheek exploration of Pacific Island stereotypes. Part detective story, part documentary, an unseen narrator goes in search of a painting of a Polynesian princess that he has fallen in love with. Along the way he meets artists, fans and critics of the kitsch art genre, as well as the mysterious Gauguin-like figure of Charlie McPhee. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art series, Velvet Dreams played in multiple international film festivals.
Crush is a tale of simmering sexuality set in Rotorua. Moral or sexual ambiguity pervades the narrative of conflicted desire. Its mix of blocked-up writer, spurting mud-pools, infatuated teen, eel farm, American femme fatale (Marcia Gay Harden), noir motels, limp pongas and wheelchairs, plays out in a symbolic NZ landscape not seen before (or since). Director Alison Maclean's debut feature (which she co-wrote with Anne Kennedy) played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
This 1967 documentary offers a rare behind the scenes glimpse into the early days of Kiwi television, as a group of actors learn firsthand how the new medium differs from the stage. The actors' workshops were held in three cities as part of a push to create more local drama. After NZ Broadcasting Corporation producer Brian Bell introduces the actors to the camera, they try out some scenes. Five TV plays emerged, and two are seen getting made: The Tired Man, featuring Grant Tilly and Ray Henwood, and acclaimed Christchurch-shot drama Game for Five Players.