The title provides pointers towards the film noir intentions of this stylish short film. A well-travelled set-up — drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as the time -travel plot unravels. Jet Black features Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and fellow Shortlander Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress. The screenplay was written by director Kezia Barnett, novelist Chad Taylor (Heaven) and adman Karl Fleet. It was part of a series of shorts promoting Schweppes, by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.
In March and April 2001 slippers met gumboots when The Royal New Zealand Ballet went on a five-week long heartland tour. The ballerinas performed in community theatres and halls in places like Twizel, Putaruru, Taihape, and Alexandra. This Gibson Group TV One documentary chronicles the challenges – injuries, fatigue, motel life, provincial performance diets (junk food, baking), dodgy stages and wiring, romance on the road – and receptive locals. The programme includes work from local choreographers to famous ballets, with music from classical to Head Like a Hole.
For this 1987 Kaleidoscope report, architectural commentator Mark Wigley uses Kiwi resort towns as fuel for an essay on local architecture. He visits Waitangi, arguing that Aotearoa should have followed the "rich ornamental example" of the Whare Rūnanga, instead of the restraint of the Treaty House. He praises Paihia’s "cacophony of bad taste" motels. In part two, he compares Queenstown and Arrowtown, and admires a gold dredge and the Skyline gondola. Wigley, then starting his academic career in the United States, would become an internationally acclaimed architectural theorist.
NFU-produced TV series These New Zealanders explored the character and people of six NZ towns, 60s-style. Fronted by Selwyn Toogood, it was one of the legendary presenter's first TV slots. In this episode Toogood dons the walk shorts and long socks and visits Taupō, extolling the lake district as a place of play (camping, fishing, swimming, jet-boating) and work (the development of Lochinver Station for farming). Toogood does a priceless vox pop survey of summertime visitors, including the requisite quizzing of an overseas couple about whether they like it here.
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.
A rod and rally race is the angle for this 1969 light comedy. Legendary angler ‘Maggots’ McClure lures “glamour boy” lawyer and fishing novice Applejoy (Peter Vere-Jones) into a contest to catch three trophy fish in Russell, Taupō, and Waitaki. The old dunga versus Alvis ‘Speed 20’, north versus south duel transfixes the nation; snags, shags and scenic diversion ensue. Directed by noted UK documentary maker Derek Williams, the caper was made with NFU help and funded by energy company BP. It showed with Gregory Peck western The Stalking Mood in New Zealand theatres.
This Māori Television hit offers a down-home NZ Idol mixed with a little Fear Factor, as off the street talents sing three rounds of karaoke and try to win $1000. Hosts Te Hamua Nikora (Homai Te Pakipaki) and Luke Bird (The Stage - Haka Fusion) coax Lagitoa from Papatoetoe, Samantha from Pakuranga and Renee from Rotorua to belt out their favourite song. The show’s stripped back style allows lots of space for audience reactions (this time at Rotorua's night markets, and in Pakuranga). With encouragements in te reo and English, the contestants feel the fear and sing anyway.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
In the early 1970s expat broadcaster Michael Dean took Aotearoa’s pulse, as it loosened its necktie and moved from “ice-cream on mutton, swilled around in tea” conservatism, towards a more cosmopolitan outlook. Dean asks the intelligentsia (James K Baxter, Tim Shadbolt, Peter Cape, Shirley Smith, Bill Sutch, Ian Cross, Peter Beaven, Pat Hanly, Syd Jackson, Hana Te Hemara) for their take. The questions range from “what does the family in Tawa sit down to eat these days?” to the Māori renaissance. Dean had made his name in the 60s, as a high profile broadcaster with the BBC.
The line “where the bloody hell are you?” generated controversy when used in a 2006 Aussie tourism campaign; so who knows what 1980 audiences made of this promo’s exhortation to “Come on to New Zealand.” But as the narration assures: “It’s a safe country. You can walk without being molested.” Aimed at the US market, the film was made as long haul air travel was opening up NZ as a destination. Māori culture, sheep and pretty scenery are highlighted, alongside skinny dipping and weaving (!). Narrated by Bob Parker, the NFU promo marked an early gig for editor Annie Collins.