In late 1769 Captain James Cook first reached New Zealand, charged with charting the area. Peter Elliott chronicles Cook's journey in this award-winning four-part series. This first episode looks at his first encounters with local Māori, on the east coast of the North Island. While some greeted Cook with pōwhiri, others took exception to the murder and kidnapping the Europeans brought in spite of their declarations of peace. Amongst the locals Elliott meets on the coast is a young sailor in Tauranga who bears a striking resemblance to America’s Cup winning sailor Peter Burling.
For this 2001 series Peter Elliott retraced Captain James Cook’s first voyage around Aotearoa. The second episode heads from Mercury Bay to Cape Reinga. Elliott diverts from Cook’s wake to Waitemata Harbour to investigate New Zealand boatbuilding history, and sail a Team New Zealand America’s Cup yacht with Tom Schnackenberg. Elliott then boards HMNZS Te Kaha to "hoon" up the coast to rejoin The Endeavour's path. In the Bay of Islands he meets Waitangi waka paddlers, crews on tall ship R Tucker Thompson, and dives to the Rainbow Warrior wreck off the Cavalli Islands.
This fourth episode of Captain’s Log sees host Peter Elliott journeying around the bottom of the South Island, tracing the end of James Cook’s first journey around New Zealand. The precarious Otago Harbour is navigated in an oil tanker, before a much smaller boat takes Elliott around the bottom of Stewart Island to Fiordland, where his captain Lance Shaw describes major conservation efforts in the area. A trip up the treacherous West Coast in a concrete carrier is cause for nerves, then a sail aboard Spirit of New Zealand offers a chance to reflect on the journey.
In this third episode of Captain’s Log, Peter Elliott tracks Captain Cook’s journey down the west coast of the North Island. First he takes the Ranui down to Kaipara Harbour, before hitching a ride on the old kauri schooner Te Aroha to Queen Charlotte Sound. Elliott recounts the story of Cook’s realisation that a strait existed between the two islands, before a brief trip to Wellington on (now defunct) catamaran The Lynx. The episode's final stop is Elliott’s hometown of Lyttelton on the peninsula formerly known as Banks Island, where he takes a hair-raising dive on a lifeboat.
This was the 24th edition of New Zealand Mirror, a 1950s National Film Unit series promoting New Zealand to British audiences. The first clip, about rugby's Ranfurly Shield, was deemed “too topical” by the UK distributor, and cut from later editions. The clip in question captures the colour of the national obsession (knuckle bones, livestock parades) at Athletic Park, where Taranaki challenge shield holders Wellington. It was later seen in Kiwi theatres as a short, playing with 1982 rugby tale Carry Me Back. The latter segments show Kaiapoi ploughing, and Wairakei thermal energy.
Bros meets The Bachelor in this hit Māori Television reality show, which was billed as a "hunt for the ultimate Polynesian warrior". The contestants' muscles might look good, but do the personal trainers and dancers have their ancestors’ skills? This first episode tests the 12 entrants in spear throwing, waka portage and hakamoa (Hawaiian wrestling). The show swapped po-faced reality TV conventions for Polynesian humour: dropped lavalavas and tattooed torsos are slathered with innuendo by hosts Pani and Pani (Goretti Chadwick and Anapela Polataivao).
Claire Duncan’s “love-letter to music on the margins” punctures the romantic view of the touring musician (with withering narration playing over images of rural backwaters) while simultaneously affirming the virtues of self-expression, and the special transience of live performance. Featured are interviews and arresting performances from some of NZ’s most singular new artists: Seth Frightening, i.e. crazy (the director’s musical alias) and Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing. This was one of three films produced by Lumière, advocating for local artists working outside the mainstream.
This Heartland channel series marked 50 years of television in New Zealand. Each episode chronicled a decade of screen highlights, alongside an interview with a personality who worked in that era. In this excerpt from the 1990s episode, host Andrew Shaw chats to Peter Elliott about his TV career, from painting the floor for Grunt Machine to becoming a high profile actor (Gloss, Shortland Street), and presenter (Captain’s Log). Elliott reflects on the Shortland Street (and Civil Defence advert) curse, and the screen industry’s growing confidence in telling local stories.
This 1985 New Zealand tourism promo showcases Aotearoa society and industry. As the title suggests, the NFU-made film offers an impressionistic take on the subject. Bookended by a dawn and dusk chorus, the narration-free survey cuts between primary products (milk, logs, wool etc) and their manufacturing processes, and then shows people at work and play — from futures traders to pounamu carvers, contemporary dancers to cricketers. Date stamps of the era include a mass aerobics class, hydroslide action, and saxophone and guitar solos on the soundtrack.
This short film from 1955 offers a comprehensive look at how knowledge of bushcraft can make safer "our green heritage of the high hills and bush”. Following a tramping party, the narration takes a straightforward approach to the subject, detailing skills like packing, river crossing, route finding, fire lighting, and building a bivvy. Some tips are timeless: “There’s no point in going like a bull at a gate” through supplejack, while others are of their era: pipe-smoking, barley sugar, and logs for tent poles. The film was part of a National Film Unit educational series on mountain safety.