Classic Kiwi play Joyful and Triumphant followed the Bishop family over four decades, from 1949 to 1989. Written by Robert Lord, it charted changes in New Zealand society by focusing on the minutae of Christmas Day family dynamics. The play was first performed to sellout audiences in 1992, a month after Lord died. It won multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Directed by Peter Sharp (The Fire-Raiser), this TV adaptation features Robyn Malcolm and Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry — plus Catherine Downes and Bruce Phillips, who both appeared in the original production.
This special edition of the National Film Unit’s monthly magazine series looks at some of the “people, places and events filmed by our cameramen during the years 1941 - 1962”. The NFU’s 21st birthday review — compiled by David H Fowler — ranges from wartime newsreels to the post-war boom (factories, dams, industrial agriculture), from salvos to Peter Snell. Other images include Kiwi soldiers playing rugby in Korea, and cigarettes hanging from the lips of firemen fighting Christchurch's Ballantyne Department Store fire in 1947.
In this experimental drama shot in 1975, four young idealists escape the city for rural Foxton, and set about living off the land. But an act of violence sends the commune into isolation and extremism. Teasing tense drama from rural settings, the 90 minute tale from maverick National Film Unit director Paul Maunder shines a harsh light on the contradictions of the frontier spirit. Although state television funded it, they found it too edgy to screen; instead Landfall debuted at the 1977 Wellington Film Festival. The cast includes Sam Neill as a Vietnam vet, and Mark ll director John Anderson.
Despite the misleading numbering, this October 1942 film marked the first of the National Film Unit's long-running Weekly Review series. The NFU had been established a year earlier to promote the war effort via newsreels screened in movie theatres. In a meta first clip, Kiwi soldiers watch an NFU film in a makeshift outdoor cinema. Then war readiness is demonstrated via army exercises — including on Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where “Māori and Pākehā are working together, mounting machine guns for their common defence.” Finally: Red Cross parcels are prepared for NZ prisoners of war.
Coverage of a major event in the history of the NZ music industry — the pressing of Ruru Karaitiana’s timeless classic ‘Blue Smoke’ — is the highlight of this NFU newsreel. It was the first recording of a local composition performed by local musicians to be manufactured in NZ (in a very exact and highly labour intensive exercise involving men in white coats). The country’s biggest airlift of sheep, sharp shooting army cadets, high flying painters redecorating a Wellington church and heavy machinery being moved across Auckland by barge also feature.
This edition of the NFU magazine series first travels to Waiouru to observe the NZ Army’s elite Special Air Service, in the year it was established. The soldiers undergo bush exercises, an obstacle course and a mock ambush, training for deployment to Malaya. Then it’s up to Auckland Zoo to meet husky litters destined for an Antarctic Adventure with Hillary and the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (the dogs are related to Captain Scott’s huskies). And finally, it’s further north to go shark fishing for “a day on the Kaipara” in a segment directed by Maurice Shadbolt.
Godzone is “timber country” in this seventh slot in the New Zealand Now series. The NFU film looks at the world of the Kiwi bushman, as milling is providing the raw material for a postwar housing boom. The narrators provide a good keen guide to life in the remote and tiny (six houses) North Island town of Oraukura, where timber men fell giant native trees during the day and split kindling after work. For the men it’s a hard, but good life; for their wives it’s “pretty dull”. The Axemen’s Carnival in Taumarunui features OSH-unsanctioned woodchopping in socks.
White Water Ride scoffs a fry-up, zips up a life jacket, straps on a helmet and joins a guided rafting trip down the Mohaka River (with extra scenes shot on the Tongaririo and Rangitikei). There’s a rafter overboard and 70s era wetsuits, but no menacing locals or duelling banjos here (à la backwoods rafting classic Deliverance) — just a jaunty guitar and harmonica soundtrack, and the thrills and spills of a white water paddling trip, with a friendly splash war to finish. The narration-free NFU short played in NZ cinemas alongside Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.
This NFU mini-biopic eulogises the 19th Century Māori leader Te Rauparaha. The Ngāti Toa chief led his people on an exodus from Kāwhia, to a stronghold on Kāpiti Island where he ruled — via musket, flax trade and diplomacy — over a Cook Strait empire extending south to Akaroa. The free-ranging film includes recreations of the 'Wairau Incident' which stirred fears of Māori uprising amidst settlers; Te Rauparaha’s ignominious 1846 arrest by Governor Grey; and the 1849 reburial on Kapiti of the "cannibal statesman" (evocatively rendered using inverted colours).
This 1981 promotional short snaps the clapperboard on the National Film Unit’s new filmmaking facilities at Avalon. The Unit had moved from its Miramar birthplace to the Lower Hutt complex in 1978 (it was officially opened on 18 October that year). Narrated by Bob Parker and scored to a funky soundtrack, the film is a guide through NFU production processes. A montage of production scenes is followed by a look at film processing once the film is ‘in the can’. Tricks of the trade depicted include rear projection, film colouring and foley (sound effects).