Passion project The Lunatics' Ball follows an unorthodox psychologist who arrives at a psychiatric hospital and tries to use art, joy and respect to motivate his patients. First-timer Michael Thorp wrote the script partly out of worries that drug-based treatment programmes could prove more of a trap than a solution. After casting American-born oboist Russel Walder in the main role, and shooting on a shoestring, Thorp completed editing thanks to $400,000 in Film Commission funding, and help from some major industry names. The result won a jury prize at the Shanghai Film Festival.
In this 1989 Holmes excerpt, visiting Brit jazz musicians Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball meet Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, a self-described “mediocre trumpeter”. The trio play ‘Tin Roof Blues’ in the PM’s office, before a circuit of the Beehive balcony. Unlike Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign-defining saxophone slot on The Arsenio Hall Show, the Kiwi leader’s jazzy side earned more sniggers than kudos — although the former law professor recalled the jam fondly in his memoir as one of the lighter moments of his Prime Ministerial tenure: “I loved it”.
This feature documentary from director Pietra Brettkelly (A Flickering Truth) follows Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei as she aims to join the exclusive world of Paris’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Brettkelly traces the designer’s Cinderella story from Mao’s China to Paris fashion shows and the Met Gala fundraiser event in New York, beginning with pop star Rihanna modelling a 27kg canary yellow gown in 2015. Yellow is Forbidden was selected for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival (the first Kiwi film to screen in its main competition) and the NZ International Film Festival.
This documentary backgrounds the process of turning Murray Ball's comic strip into New Zealand's first animated feature. Who will voice the iconic Dog? Pat Cox, the original producer, stays off-screen; but there are interviews with perfectionist Footrot creator Murray Ball, fellow Manawatu scribe Tom Scott and John Clarke, who argues he narrowly beat Meryl Streep to provide the voice of Wal. Amongst the making of footage, the late Mike Hopkins (who won Oscar glory on Lord of the Rings) lends his feet to the sound effects. Tony Hiles writes about the making of the film here.
In 1986 Footrot Flats: The Dog's (Tail) Tale and its theme song ‘Slice of Heaven’ were huge hits in New Zealand and Australia. The adaptation of Murray Ball's beloved Footrot Flats comic strip marked Aotearoa's first animated feature. There were a lot of big questions to answer: Will Wal become an All Black? Will Cooch recover his stolen stag? Will the Dog win your hearts and funny bones? Punters answered at the box office. This John Toon-shot trailer doubled as a promo for the Dave Dobbyn-Herbs song, and smartly leveraged both. Tony Hiles writes about the film's making here.
This jaunty early National Film Unit film promotes the alpine scenery of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and its recreational opportunities. It includes slalom at the 1946 New Zealand ski champs, ice-skating at Lake Tekapo, comic pratfalls in the snow, a mass snow-fight and ... landscape painting. Dancing at the Hermitage Hotel is "a good way to loosen the muscles after skiing". As well as human interest, the film features the expected majestic mountains, glaciers, and avalanches, as well as curious kea at Ball Hut, and amusing dogs in snow-glasses.
This National Film Unit newsreel offers a wide-ranging look at ‘the national game’ in 1966. A muddy potted history (scored to rugby folk song ‘On the Ball’) rakes from the age grades to a Ranfurly Shield match, to the apex: the All Blacks. Ex-All Black fullback Bob Scott talks about the need for ‘four stone bantams’ to enjoy the game, while fellow AB Don ‘The Boot’ Clarke discusses the problems for a country player; Wellington College’s 1st XV plays a ‘traditional’ against Nelson in front of a mass haka on the terraces; and club players explain why they play (“it’s a manly game”).
The South Tonight was a Dunedin-filmed regional news show. In these excerpts, Martin Phillipps and The Chills return home from London, and find album Submarine Bells is number one; legendary local band Sneaky Feelings play a last gig; Velvet Underground muse Nico plays Orientation Week; a ball is filmed at Larnach Castle for TV series Hanlon; rhododendron nuts ramble at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and Jim Mora visits the Danseys Pass Hotel. Finally there’s a survey of dingy student digs circa 1985 (when rents went as low as $14 a week).
This National Film Unit production was made to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Plunket Society. Plunket — aka ‘Karitane’ — nursing is a New Zealand system of ante-natal and post-natal care for mothers and infants, founded by Sir Truby King: “the man who saved the babies”. Featuring original nurse Joanne MacKinnon, the film follows Plunket from a time of high infant mortality to providing contemporary nursing to a New Zealand flush with postwar optimism: “a family country, where children grow happily in the fresh air and sunshine.”
Sailor's Voyage charts the journey of Hello Sailor, the band that ripped up a storm live, made landings in the USA, ran aground and fell apart, then drifted back together again. Interviews with Graham Brazier, Dave McArtney, Harry Lyon and co reveal how the group opened doors for local music, and helped establish a New Zealand touring circuit. Manager David Gapes recalls attempts to get a US record deal, before the cash ran out; the legend of Brazier being asked to join The Doors is explained. The archive footage includes a performance with Doors member Ray Manzarek.