Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Created for television by author Maurice Gee, The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown school kids against a balaclava-clad figure with fire on the brain. In this episode, the children sneak onto the property of the man they suspect of terrorising their town. The police arrive after Kitty is trapped inside a room that has tragic memories for the suspect’s mother, the memorably moody Mrs Marwick. This WWI-era gothic adventure went on to score four Listener TV awards, including best drama; and Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas.
In 2015 celebrated Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček and his twin brother and designer Otto adapted award-winning film The Piano into a full-length ballet. With her second big screen documentary, Crossing Rachmaninoff director Rebecca Tansley followed the pair as they arrive in New Zealand, and begin expanding their original production for a 2018 season with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Bubeníček faces difficult artistic decisions as he and Māori Advisor Moss Te Ururangi Patterson try to find common ground while deepening the ballet's Māori elements and themes.
In this 1971 film pianist Barry Margan ‘humps’ his grand piano around NZ, on a mission to bring classical piano to places where it might not typically be heard. Aiming to break down barriers to enjoying live chamber music, Margan plays his pop-up piano (including Douglas Lilburn’s ‘Sonatina’) at coffee bars, libraries and art galleries. The trailer-borne grand is not easy to set up, but the audiences (from soldiers to children) are willing. Narrated by Margan, this was the last film in the National Film Unit's three decade-spanning Pictorial Parade magazine series.
This documentary follows Auckland-based, Italian-born pianist Flavio Villani as he prepares to play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 2 in Italy — his debut performance as a soloist with an orchestra. Director Rebecca Tansley, who funded much of the documentary herself, tails Villani from four months before the recital that will challenge the prodigal son to affirm his career choice and sexuality, in front of his Italian ex-military father. When it debuted at the 2015 Auckland Film Festival, Crossing Rachmaninoff won a standing ovation.
This short Auckland-shot interview for arts show The Edge screened as Holly Hunter was appearing in two Oscar-nominated roles: The Piano and The Firm. Hunter discusses playing a hitman-hiring housewife, and joining Tom Cruise in The Firm. Weighing up past roles, she cherishes Raising Arizona and Broadcast News, but feels that The Piano is “the most original story that I've been involved in”, and Jane Campion is “one of the great directors.” In March 1994 Hunter would win an Oscar for Best Actress (alongside Piano Oscars for co-star Anna Paquin, and for Campion's screenplay).
Wayne Mason — multi-instrumentalist and composer of The Fourmyula classic 'Nature' — talks about songwriting and his musical evolution in this episode, from a series made for high school students. He demonstrates his piano playing (on an energetic boogie-woogie work out) and a Scandalli accordion on 'High and Dry' (which he wrote in the Warratahs). He discusses the origins of 'Nature', and his songwriting technique (which always begins on a guitar); and muses on his high school band The Fourmyula which took him to Abbey Road, where he met The Beatles.
No television special would be complete without a bloopers reel. 1985 marked the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand, and one of the events celebrating it was a variety show at the Michael Fowler Centre. In this short excerpt, host Roger Gascoigne introduces a montage of humorous TV moments from across the years, some planned and others probably not — from turkeys in gumboots, Bill McCarthy’s exploding piano, and Relda Familton being judo-flipped, to Tom Bradley losing his script, and presenter Peter Sinclair disappearing in dry ice at the 1983 Feltex Awards.
Under the Covers was a spin-off series from TVNZ 7 book series The Good Word, compiling Finlay Macdonald’s 10 minute pieces on great Kiwi books into their own show. Each episode features three books and tells the story behind them via interviews, readings and archive footage. This episode featured Barry Crump’s A Good Keen Man, David Lange’s My Life, and — in this excerpt — Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River, the 1917 novel that some say was an uncredited inspiration for Jane Campion's The Piano. Sam Hunt provides a spirited defence of Mander's book.
This 1993 interview from the first series of arts show The Edge screened while The Piano was in Kiwi cinemas. Earlier that year Jane Campion had become the first (and only) female director to share the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Here, she discusses the antipodean character of her next project ( The Portrait of a Lady) and the satisfaction of offering Nicole Kidman a role that isn’t “like a handbag to one of the male stars”. She also muses on working in Hollywood versus her hometown Sydney, and the influence of a New Zealand upbringing on forming her imagination.