Painting in an Empty Land

Short Film, 1981 (Full Length)

David Sims' impressionistic National Film Unit short film explores the responses of four NZ painters to a landscape illuminated by a distinctive light, but yet to feel the full impact of human settlement. The award-winning film examines Brent Wong’s floating architectural shapes, Colin McCahon’s religious symbolism, Toss Wollaston’s earth-hued palette and Michael Smither’s hard-edged realism. Their works are taken from safe gallery confines and moved closer to their subject matter, while the words of writers (Katherine Mansfield, Charles Brasch, Bill Pearson) provide another angle.

The Big Art Trip - Series Two, Episode Five

Television, 2002 (Full Length Episode)

In this leg of The Big Art Trip, hosts Fiona McDonald and Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins drive through Hawke’s Bay and catch up with artist Dick Frizzell to discuss landscape painting and his Phantom comic series. Then they’re off to Napier to meet musician Paul McLaney and his co-producer David Holmes, who explain their song production techniques. Painter and ceramic artist Martin Poppelwell shares his art, Douglas describes art deco and modernist architecture and they head south to nearby Waipawa to meet potter Helen Mason and painter Gary Waldrom.

Weekly Review No. 267 - Winter Sports at Mount Cook

Short Film, 1946 (Full Length)

This jaunty early National Film Unit film promotes the alpine scenery of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and its recreational opportunities. It includes slalom at the 1946 New Zealand ski champs, ice-skating at Lake Tekapo, comic pratfalls in the snow, a mass snow-fight and ... landscape painting. Dancing at the Hermitage Hotel is "a good way to loosen the muscles after skiing". As well as human interest, the film features the expected majestic mountains, glaciers, and avalanches, as well as curious kea at Ball Hut, and amusing dogs in snow-glasses.

Looking at New Zealand - Peter McIntyre

Television, 1969 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of the 60s magazine show is a portrait of Peter McIntyre. McIntyre was New Zealand’s official war artist, and his paintings became icons of the NZ war effort. This piece focuses on his later landscapes — then at the height of their popularity. Shots of McIntyre working in his studio and around Kākahi — where the “happy escapist” retreats from the hurly burly of Wellington — bolster the romantic image. He muses on ‘scenic decay’, trout fishing, the zen of the bush and pop art: “If they’re surrounded by cans of beans let them paint cans of beans!”.  

Colin McCahon: I Am

Television, 2004 (Excerpts)

This documentary looks at the life and work of New Zealand's most celebrated painter, Colin McCahon. The first excerpt looks at McCahon's beginnings in Timaru and Dunedin, and his explorations of modernist techniques in paintings that reconceived 'the promised land' in an endemic landscape. The second excerpt covers McCahon's time in Muriwai in the 60s and 70s, and the influence of the environment and Māori spirituality on his work. Sam Neill reads from McCahon's letters and writings. Directed by Paul Swadel, it won best documentary at the 2005 Qantas Awards. 

Weekly Review No. 401

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

This Weekly Review features a speedboat and hydroplane regatta in Evans Bay in a stiff northerly as boats capsize in the choppy seas; the inter-provincial rowing eights on a flat-as-a-millpond Petone foreshore on the other side of Wellington Harbour in which Auckland's West End wins; and the reopening of the National Art Gallery by the Prime Minister Peter Fraser after eight years' occupation by the Air Force. The £40K national collection (mainly portraits and landscapes) is unpacked and reframed, and a Frances Hodgkins painting examined. 

Kaleidoscope - Edward Bullmore

Television, 1982 (Excerpts)

Sensuous expressions of landscape and the human form made Edward Bullmore (aka Ted Bullmore) a pioneer of surrealism in New Zealand art. This Kaleidoscope report interviews the painter’s colleagues and family, and surveys the artist’s life and career: from an unlikely mix of Balclutha farm boy, Canterbury rep rugby player and Ilam art student, to success in 60s London – exhibiting with René Magritte and Salvador Dali, and having his works used by Stanley Kubrick in film A Clockwork Orange – before returning to teach in Rotorua (and obscurity), and his untimely death in 1978.

The Big Art Trip - Series Two, Episode 10

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episode)

Episode 10 of season two of The Big Art Trip kicks off in Timaru, birthplace of artist Colin McCahon, where hosts Fiona and Douglas check out a collection of his paintings. Next it’s Dunedin to meet designer Vita Cochran, who makes handbags and other objects, and they visit the studio of Jeffrey Harris who talks about his evolving painting style. Dancer and choreographer Shona Dunlop MacTavish describes her career and life as a young woman in 1930s Europe and artist Grahame Sydney discusses landscapes, nudes, surrealism and his love for the Otago countryside.

In My Father's Den

Film, 2004 (Trailer, Excerpts, and Extras)

When his father dies, Paul (Matthew Macfayden), a world-weary war journalist, returns to his Central Otago hometown. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a teenage girl (Emily Barclay). Their relationship is frowned upon and when she disappears, the community holds him responsible. The events that follow force Paul to confront a tragic incident he fled as a youth, and face dark secrets. Critically-acclaimed, In My Father's Den marked the debut of a formidable fledgling talent: it was the only feature from writer-director Brad McGann, who died of cancer in 2007.

Flight of Fancy

Short Film, 1987 (Excerpts)

This whimsical film starring New Zealand artist Michael Smither, animal wrangler Caroline Girdlestone, and cartoonist Burton Silver, documents Smither's quest to learn to fly. It is a documentary in the accepted sense but lyrical and full of surprises. Made by Wellington filmmaker Tony Hiles, edited by Jamie Selkirk (future Oscar winner for The Return of the King), and gorgeously shot on location at Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. Smither is well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks With Mountain.