This excerpt from the acclaimed miniseries about Kiwi mountaineer and philanthropist Sir Edmund Hillary includes his 1930s childhood in sleepy Tuakau, and scenes from the 1940s, when his desire to join the war effort clashes with the beliefs of his pacifist father. Ed's young life is sketched in three chapters: a stolen library book ignites a passion for the mountains, teenage Ed experiences the grandeur of Mt Ruapehu, and adult Ed (played for the remainder of the series by Andrew Munro) grows restless with life as a beekeeper while being labelled a coward for his family's war stance.
This edition of the long-running National Film Unit series documents the curriculum at Manutahi Native District School in Ruatōria in 1947. The roll of 300 primarily Māori students, travel to the rural school on bus, foot and horse to learn everything from the alphabet to preparing preserves. Set in the post-war baby boom period, the male students learn to build a cottage while the girls learn ‘home economics’ (cooking and running a household). The first principle of the schooling is “learning by doing” and for the rural kids “the whole land is a classroom.”
New Zealand’s economy is in serious trouble in the first episode of this award-winning drama series about The Great Depression. An ailing Prime Minister and a weak government seem powerless in the face of a downward spiral caused by rising unemployment and falling export prices. Meanwhile, the plight of a boot maker seeking work while people are being laid off all around him, and a jeweller struggling to keep his business afloat and food on his family’s table bring home the human cost and social divisiveness being caused by the worsening crisis.
Hastings-bred former All Black Josh Kronfeld returns to the 'fruitbowl' of New Zealand to meet immigrants, in this series celebrating diversity. Adversity and sadness are key themes in this episode; an Indian "untouchable" caste family face being separated, after the parents overstayed, while Bosnian rapper Genocide draws on his war-ravaged childhood for inspiration. On a lighter note, Zimbawee-born Sandy Densem creates art using a mollusc shell design popular in her home country, and a South African family keeps tradition alive by making and selling boerewors (sausages) at markets.
Wellington funk, soul, reggae act The Black Seeds manage to cram themselves into a single shot for this episode from a series made for secondary school music students. Bookended by stripped back performances of 'Keep on Pushing' and 'Going Back Home', they explain the development of these songs from their origins as bass grooves. Mike Fabulous has cautionary words for aspiring songwriters about the dangers of overcomplicated song structures while Barnaby Weir reassuringly suggests that virtuosity is not an absolute prerequisite for being in the band.
Barney Blackfoot (Ian Watkin) is a mean stepfather who married Billy and Lucy's mother under false pretenses, later revealing his evil nature. Barney is helped in his exploits by his friend (a moving wardrobe), and together they set out to destroy Lucy and Billy's happy home. Designed in soft sculpture (Cabbage Patch Kids style) and filmed in live action with special effects, this Yvonne Mackay-directed short film is aimed at children and is without dialogue or narration. The early Gibson Group film was scripted by Ian Mune and scored by Jack Body.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
During his last session on air, a veteran radio announcer 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 comic adventure helped lead to Scarfies, the feature debut of Nightmare team member, director Robert Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Out of the Blue). A big seller overseas, Signing Off won awards at film festivals from Dresden to Montreal.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
This film tells the story of Antarctica’s emperor penguin (the inspiration behind Happy Feet) and how they survive vicious blizzards and -50°C temperatures. It also retraces the epic “worst journey in the world” which explorer Edward Wilson made to discover these remarkable birds. Max Quinn won a best director award at the 1994 NZ Television Awards for the Antarctic Trilogy Emperors was part of. The trilogy helped establish NHNZ’s relationship with Discovery Channel. As this backgrounder explains, the scene of a penguin falling through ice (clip one) became a YouTube hit.