"I like to pull rabbits out of hats to surprise people". So said young director David Blyth, before unleashing Angel Mine. Inspired partly by the surrealism of Luis Buñuel, Blyth's inventive debut is one of a handful of Kiwi experimental feature films to win mainstream release. Featuring a whitebread suburban couple and their liberated alter egos, the film explores ideas of consumerism, sexuality, the media, and taboo-breaking. The film excited criticism from Patricia Bartlett, and a notorious addition to its R18 certificate: "contains punk cult material."
On 19 January 1967, an explosion rocked the Strongman coal mine on the West Coast, causing the deaths of 19 miners. This documentary, part of a series investigating NZ disasters, sees TV personality Leigh Hart examining what happened that day in Rūnanga, and how it affected the community. Interviewees include Hart’s own family: his Dad, who was in the mine at the time, his mother, and his Uncle Terry, who was part of the rescue team. This two-minute excerpt includes a reenactment of the disaster, and Leigh examining the outside of the old mine.
Mid-1980s series Then Again revisited high profile moments in Kiwi history, mixing archive material and interviews with those who were there. This item from a 1986 episode looks back at the Strongman mine explosion of 19 January 1967, which killed 19 men at New Zealand's largest underground coal mine. Twenty years on reporter Jim Hopkins visits the still-working West Coast mine, to see if ghosts still linger. An official inquiry found that the state-run coal mine had neglected safety procedures; the Government paid compensation to families of the victims.
Gary McCormick visits the West Coast mining town of Reefton in this full length episode. He takes an early morning trip down Surprise Mine, and gains insights into the tough life of a coal miner. Meanwhile, miners' wives talk about being married to someone with a high risk occupation. McCormick also attends the First Light Festival, held to mark Reefton being the first town in the southern hemisphere with electric lighting. Later he heads to the abandoned gold mining town of Waiuta, and back in Reefton meets a woman with a doll collection which takes up her whole house.
This short 1979 National Film Unit documentary heads up the steep bush-clad West Coast valleys from Rūnanga, to profile the men at work at five private coal mines. Director Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) showcases the remarkable DIY resourcefulness required by the small groups of miners. The rugged individuals work the seams, push bins along steep incline railways and dump the loads down vertiginously steep flumes. At the time this film was made waning prospects for the unique way of life were looking up, as high oil prices spurred demand for coal.
This documentary unearths the story of the soldiers in the New Zealand Tunneling Company, whose daring World War I raids involved digging tunnels through chalk rock, laying explosives underneath enemy lines, and countermining German tunneling efforts. The story is told through the eyes of a New Zealand woman who retraces her grandfather’s war story to Arras, France, and sees the Kiwi-tagged cavern 'city' nearly 80 years later. The company played a key role on the Western Front, and was especially recruited in NZ, made up of miners, bushmen and labourers.
This award-winning lifestyle series took Wellington chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan out of their fine dining restaurant kitchen, and off on a mission to put the local in 'locally sourced' kai. In this episode it's wild food on a wild river — whitebaiting on the Mokihinui. Brownie gets a primo 'stand' and coaster advice; and Steve gets some Green Fern lager and meets a Department of Conservation ranger who tells the whitebait's perilous life story and nets a grown-up: a kokopu. Then it's riverside fritters with beurre blanc sauce and asparagus, washed down with a glass of pinot gris.
Greenies meet The Castle in this 2014 film from first-time feature director Anton Steel. The Z-Nail Gang tells the story of locals joining to fight plans to dig an opencast goldmine in nearby bush — using nails in car tyres, Santa suits and a rap song, instead of monkey wrenches. The making of this down-home take on eco-activism was also a grassroots effort, with the film made by harnessing community support in the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke. At the 2014 NZ Film Awards it was nominated for Best Self-Funded Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Rare).
Marcus Lush travels from the vast Kaingaroa Forest to NZ's busiest rail junction (at Hamilton), in this installment of his popular and award-winning telly love affair with NZ's railways. Along the way, he meets a legless train accident survivor turned motivational speaker; potter Barry Brickell and his 3km narrow gauge railway at Driving Creek; and a collector with more than 2,700 rail related items. There's also a visit to Waihi, turned into a boomtown by gold and rail in the 1870s, which was home to the might and power of the Victoria stamper battery.
This classic wartime newsreel profiles the coal mining towns of Westland. It compares the town of Rūnanga, where mining has brought prosperity and a strong community life, with Denniston, which is set in rocky, inhospitable land high up a West Coast mountainside. Its tone is patriotic: “Here then are the men who feed New Zealand with the raw material of industrial prosperity ... They work in the darkness of the mines, buried away from the fresh splendours of the air above them.” The Weekly Reviews were screened in cinemas 1942 - 1950.