Fronted by Paul Holmes, this doco looks at the New Zealand Paralympic team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. It was the most successful team to date with a haul of nine gold medals, six silver and four bronze (and 44 personal bests). Triumph focuses on several disabled Kiwi athletes, from their arrival in the States to victory on the track, in the pool and on the field. The first Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960 with just 400 competitors. In Atlanta 3,500 athletes competed, 35 of them kiwis. Triumph broke ground screening in a primetime slot on TV One.
Opening with an image of Orpheus floating on the water, this inspired doco climaxes with a contender for NZ's most eyeopening montage yet. Loaded with examples of the infinite ways the human voice can make music, the film sees host Julian Waring introducing choirs, opera, balladeers and protest singers. Along the way Michael Heath recreates a performance by Florence Foster Jenkins, a worryingly close cousin of Asian-New Zealand songbird Wing. The mash-up finale uses 2000 photographs to summarise two decades of music, in a scene that must have blown minds in the suburbs.
Director Nic Gorman won best short at the 2013 NZ Film Awards for zombie tale Here Be Monsters. With his first feature he shifts horror genres to the psychological thriller, as a mysterious new arrival (Vinnie Bennett) disturbs subantarctic island life for a husband and wife scientist team (Fantail's Sophie Henderson and Siege's Mark Mitchinson). Human Traces debuted at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival. NZ Herald reviewer George Fenwick praised the "stunning cinematography" and "impressive performances", arguing they helped produce a "fine debut" for Gorman.
Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby was a sharp-witted comedy about an appallingly politically incorrect relief teacher. In this episode, the irreverent Mr Gormsby (artfully played by David McPhail) is the unlikely candidate to teach a Human Relationships class. Later, a used condom is discovered in the wharenui and Gormsby's powers of deduction lead him to the culprit. The "darkly funny" comedy (Sydney Morning Herald) was partly based on a former teacher of director Danny Mulheron and was nominated for Best Script and Best Comedy at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.
Mary O’Hagan spent five years of her early 20s confined to a psychiatric hospital. This short documentary has O’Hagan reading back the doctors' reports on her mental illness, and comparing them with her own journal entries at the time. In turn the film presents a critique of the treatment of mental illness that O’Hagan endured. The film’s title, Madness Made Me, is also that of O’Hagan’s own memoir, which chronicles her experience with mental illness. The film was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of short films made for exhibition online.
Dancer Shona McCullagh’s award-winning debut short film offers a joyful fingers-up to gravity, dialogue, and the idea that nuns never get up to anything exciting. Two nuns flip twist and fly from bedside to beachside, turning a moving train carriage into a jungle gym (in-between desperately seeking solace from the call of nature). The footloose dance film did some travelling of its own: invited to over 30 festivals, including prestigious dance film festivals, and Edinburgh, Clermont-Ferrand, and Sundance (where it played before Kiwi feature Scarfies).
This morbidly funny short, made by students of Auckland's Media Design School, depicts the demise of 26 alphabetical and animated animals at the hands of nature’s greatest enemy — the human. Framed as a father possum (Phil Greeves) reading his children their favourite bedtime story, the alliterative animal deaths are undercut with cheerful giggling from the two young possums. The film won acclaim at festivals worldwide —screening at South by Southwest in 2016, and taking out Best Animated film in the Comic-Con Film Festival later that year.
In 1976 Ian Johnstone became the first NZ TV journalist to visit apartheid South Africa. For this Feltex Award-winning report (one of three for Seven Days) he and a small crew strove — under the regime's close eye — to show apartheid's impact on blacks. Shots of Soweto, human rights meetings, and interviews (Bishop Tutu, students, campaigner Hector Ncokazi), undercut PM Johannes Vorster's case for separatism. Seeing Johnstone being denied service at a burger bar (he was with a black) unsettled Kiwi viewers, weeks before the All Blacks left for South Africa in mid-1976.
Cannes is the place where art meets schlock on the French Riviera. A year before Jane Campion's The Piano shared the festival's top prize, NZ-made documentary Cannes '92 managed to snare almost everyone standing, from Voight to Van Damme — including NZ entrants Alison Maclean (with her movie Crush) and Nicky Marshall (Mon Desir). Vincent Ward mentions the 14 companies involved in his Map of the Human Heart. Baz Luhrmann promotes Strictly Ballroom; Paul Verhoeven completely forgets the question after his Basic Instinct star Sharon Stone interrupts proceedings with a kiss.
In this interview publicising 1996 comedy The Birdcage, Robin Williams turns his humour settings to a surprisingly low level. Quizzed on matters political by Holmes reporter Ewart Barnsley, Williams argues that politically correct people can display the “same kind of repressive tendencies” as others, and admits that the portrait of homosexual parents in the Mike Nichols-directed comedy could be offensive to both gays and straights. But, he adds, the majority of viewers "go and laugh their ass off and find some common ground and humanity in it”.