The Robin's Return

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

“These three birds are over half the world population of their species.” Peter Hayden’s narration lays bare the stakes for the Chatham Island black robin, and the Wildlife Service team (led by Don Merton) trying to save them. Merton’s innovative methods include removing eggs from nests – to encourage the last two females to lay again – and placing them in riroriro (grey warbler) foster homes. The black robin documentaries helped forge the reputation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit. Paul Stanley Ward writes about the documentaries here, and the mission to save the black robin.

Seven Black Robins

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

By 1976 there were only seven Chatham Islands black robins left. It was the world's rarest bird. In a bid to save the species, the surviving birds were taken from one island to another more hospitable island in a desperate rescue mission. This was part of an incredible conservation success story led by Don Merton and his NZ Wildlife Service team. Seven Black Robins and Project Takahē captured viewers' imaginations as part of an acclaimed series of 'rare bird' films that screened on TV series Wild South. They helped forge the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).

The Black Robin - A Chatham Island Story

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the conservation ante was extreme. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts ranged from abseiling the birds (including the 'Eve' of her species, 'Old Blue') down cliff faces, to left-field libido spurs. This 1988 Listener Film and TV award-winner united two earlier Wild South documentaries, and updated the robin’s rescue story to 1987. It originally screened on Christmas Day 1987, before being modified for this 1989 edition.

Christchurch - Garden City of New Zealand

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

This promotional travelogue, made for the Christchurch City Council, shows off the city and its environs. Filmed at a time when New Zealand’s post-war economy was booming as it continued its role as a farmyard for the “Old Country”, it depicts Christchurch as a prosperous city, confident in its green and pleasant self-image as a “better Britain” (as James Belich coined NZ’s relationship to England), and architecturally dominated by its cathedrals, churches and schools. Many of these buildings were severely damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

Holiday for Susan

Short Film, 1962 (Full Length)

Directed by David Fowler for the National Film Unit, tourism promo Holiday For Susan enthusiastically follows 22-year-old Aussie Susan's tour of Godzone with Kiwi lass Lorraine Clark. En route, Susan finds a husband in Auckland's David Thomas. Abounding with shots of scenic wonder (cleverly integrated with signs of the country's industrial progress), and Susan's legs (many aspects of the film would have had Kate Sheppard rolling in her grave), the film presents a jaunty portrait of 60s NZ as a destination for young, well-to-do, globetrotters.

Whare Māori - The Wharenui (Episode Two)

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the Māori Television series looks at the place of the wharenui in Māori architecture. Rau Hoskins explores the origins and meaning of the structure, and looks at some iconic examples: a replica pataka being built in Hamilton Gardens; te hau ki turanga (the oldest surviving example of a wharenui) controversially taken by colonial forces, now displayed at museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington; and Ngākau Māhaki at Auckland's Unitec — designed by master carver Lyonel Grant and replete with dashboard lights from 70s Holdens.

Man of the Trees

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

A Leon Narbey-directed documentary about English conservationist Richard St Barbe Baker. 'St Barbe' (here aged 92) is interviewed at a South Island station where he presciently warns of desertification and laments the earth being "skinned alive". The visionary tree-planting advocate founded the organisation Men of the Trees (now the International Tree Foundation) to promote reforestation and protect trees, from 5000-year-old bristlecone pines to giant kauri. The film includes the inspiring St Barbe's tree-hugging exercise regime: two minutes morning and night.

The Living Earth - First Episode

Television, 1992 (Full Length Episode)

Ebullient presenter Dale Harvey brings his sunny ways to the first episode of this lifestyle series, which is aimed squarely at those with green thumbs. The episode opens with co-presenter Annie Whittle giving viewers a guided tour of her own garden (which boasts an incredible view), and sharing tips for an optimal vege patch. The rejuvenation of the old Edmonds Factory gardens is celebrated after the building's demolition in 1991, and Harvey trades gardening tips with lifelong gardener and radio personality, Ernie Rogers. All Black Michael Jones pops by for a quirky cameo.

Stalin's Sickle

Short Film, 1986 (Full Length)

Stalin’s Sickle takes Kiwi suburban paranoia to unexpected places as nine-year-old Daniel imagines his neighbour is feared Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. Set amidst 1962 Cold War conservatism, Daniel spots the south seas’ Stalin at church, spies on him to confirm his suspicions and schemes to send him on his way. But Daniel’s civil defence plan goes awry, leaving him with a worse threat to deal with. Based on the short story by Michael Morrissey, the Costa Botes-directed film won the Grand Jury Prize at Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.

Vigil

Film, 1984 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Toss is an 11-year old girl living on a remote hill country farm. While out with her father herding sheep, he falls and is killed. Ethan, a bearded stranger appears, carrying his body, and plants himself on the farm. Toss fears he’s Lucifer and is confused when he and her mother become lovers. It is through Ethan, however, that Toss comes to terms with her father’s death and the first stirrings of womanhood. Vincent Ward’s debut feature was the first NZ film selected for competition at Cannes; LA Times’ critic Kevin Thomas lauded it as “a work of awesome beauty”.