“There are six of them: three school teachers, an architectural draughtsman, a student of anthropology and a bus mechanic.” This lively and light-hearted 1968 National Film Unit production profiles The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, who come together in Auckland to play in a villa, a recording studio, and at the Poles Apart Folk Club (where they would record a live album the same year). The band brought the sounds of Kentucky to New Zealand via a prolific run of albums, and regular appearances on 60s TV show The Country Touch. They turned professional in 1969.
This is Howard Morrison in his prime, wearing a white suit and a big smile. It’s a cabaret performance with all of Morrison’s hallmarks – big musical anthems, a few laughs and a lacing of Māori culture. His recent OBE award provides an opportunity for a self-deprecating gag – Ordinary Brown Entertainer – but this show proves he is anything but. A master of the ad lib, Morrison has a packed house hanging on his every word and note. Backed by the Yandall Sisters, he belts out a string of favourites, from ‘Begin the Beguine’ and ‘Mori the Hori’ to his hit single ‘Whakaaria Mai’.
Artist Sam Hamilton describes his experimental feature as an “independent inquiry” into 10 celestial bodies found in The Milky Way. The Arts Foundation New Generation award-winner splices together images ranging from psychedelia to performance art to physics — shot on 16mm film across NZ and Samoa. The film's centrepiece is a sequence of dancer Ioane Papali’i with his limbs tethered to a tree. Newshub's Matthew Hutching praised Apple Pie's debut screening at the 2016 NZ Film Festival: “an absorbing, playful rumination on scientific patterns across our galaxy.”
This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows a 1977 expedition where Sir Edmund Hillary and crew (including son Peter) attempted to jet boat upriver from the mouth of the Ganges to its Himalayan heart, before making the first ascent of Akash Parbat. The adventure pilgrimage was a proof of concept for the Kiwi-invented boat, and a return to action for Ed after the death of his wife and daughter in a 1975 plane crash. The mission faces epic white water, altitude sickness and tigers. Director Michael Dillon revisited the trip for his 2019 big screen documentary Hillary: Ocean to Sky.
In the 1950s, driven by a desire to power around the shallows of the Mackenzie Country's braided rivers, inventor and "South Island sheep man" Bill Hamilton developed an improved method of jet boat propulsion. This NFU film explains the concept and Hamilton demonstrates the 'turbo craft': cruising Lake Manapouri, waterskiing Lyttelton Harbour, and heading up the Whanganui. Then it's spin outs and shooting rapids (and deer) with Commander Philip Porter from the icebreaker USS Glacier...who clearly loves the smell of the Waimakariri in the morning.
As part of the radical 80s neoliberal reform of the public and corporate sector in New Zealand, many government-run assets were turned into state owned enterprises; some were sold off to foreign buyers. Screening on TV3, this 1991 film, written by Metro columnist Bruce Jesson, examines the controversial programme by asking “who owns this country and who controls it?”. Those answering range from businesspeople to politicians, academics, journalists, vox pops and critics of the ‘cashing-in’, from the Hamilton Jet family to UK environmentalist Teddy Goldsmith.
Forty-five years in the making, this documentary looks at the history of Kiwi adventure sport. Via spectacular — original and archive — footage, it follows the pioneers (AJ Hackett et al) from sheep farm-spawned maverick surf kids to pre-Lonely Planet OEs chasing the buzz; and the innovative toys and pursuits that resulted. From the Hamilton Jet to the bungee, No.8 fencing wire smarts are iterated. The exhilaration of adventure is underpinned by a poignant ecological message — that the places where the paradise chasers could express themselves are now in peril.
Director Vea Mafile'o's Tongan father Saia drives this deeply personal film. Vea raises thorny questions about the relationship between money and the church in Tongan culture, questions that caused her Kiwi/Tongan family pain. Pensioner Saia Mafile'o's dedication to raising large amounts of money for Misinale (an annual church celebration) upset his children and splintered his marriage. Mafile'o returns to Tonga with her father and siblings, to attend the Misinale and learn why the financial sacrifice matters to him. The documentary debuted at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.
For this feature-length documentary Michael Dillon revisits his award-winner From the Ocean to the Sky, about Edmund Hillary's Ganges jet boat expedition. Back in 1977, Dillon filmed Hillary and crew (including son Peter Hillary) as they jet boated from the mouth of the Ganges to the base of the Himalayas, then set out to climb peak Akash Parbat. Dillon has remastered existing and unseen footage, and interviewed crew members about Hillary's last big expedition. This trailer shows Indian crowds swarming Hillary for an autograph, and a keen man "wakeboarding" on the Ganges.
Made before websites like Airbnb spurred a massive jump in homestay-style accommodation options, this documentary from 2000 visits New Zealanders who have chosen to open their houses to tourists. From Warkworth to Stewart Island, from farm stays to a gay-friendly house in Golden Bay, Kiwis talk about the positives of homestays — and the long hours. Two of the couples mention how their own relationship benefits from having visitors. Narrated by Jim Mora, The Real New Zealand was directed by Shirley Horrocks (hit documentary Kiwiana).