“Everyone plays a part. Who’s going to play yours?”. This tagline is given a Twilight Zone twist in this Moa-nominated feature about two Jakes. Jacob (Jason Fitch) is an everyman who is made redundant when his life is ‘recast’ by a shadowy agency. When the new, more confident Jake (Being Eve's Leighton Cardno, also award-nominated) makes moves on his lost love, Jacob fights to get his life back. The Listener’s David Larsen tweeted of Doug Dillaman's indie-funded debut: “The smartest bit of low-fi high-IQ science fiction New Zealand has produced.”
The theatre of sport is given full-blown operatic treatment in this National Film Unit classic. Footage from the French 1979 rugby tour of New Zealand is rendered in slow-motion and cut to a Tchaikovsky score. The result is an often glorious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, paean to rugby. Balletic lineouts, driving tackles, and the dark mysteries of the ruck, make for a ballsy Swan Lake in the mud. It includes the Bastille Day French victory over the All Blacks. Directed by NFU stalwart Arthur Everard, it won a jury prize at the Montreal World Film Festival.
Galaxies away from images of tar-addled lungs on cigarette packets, this film offers an unusual public health message about smoking. Set to rhyming couplets, the plasticine hero tries out to see if he has the right stuff to fly a rocket to Venus. There he battles the demon Nicotine, and (long before Avatar’) convinces Venusians to destroy their tobacco trees. Shot in 35mm by pioneering animator Fred O’Neill, Space Flight was made for theatrical release. For reasons unknown the Health Department, who commissioned it, didn't want the film to go on general release.
Created by animator Cameron Chittock, with help from Kiwi animation legend Euan Frizzell, this part claymation series follows a boy named Oscar as he goes off on adventures with two imaginary friends: daring Doris and the sometimes cowardly Bugsy. In these 26 five-minute episodes, Oscar meets pirates, oversized bugs, a frog princess, jumps on a flying carpet and travels through time and space. The series screened in New Zealand from 1995 to 1999. Overseas screenings included on ITV in the UK, where it became the 10th highest rating children's show on the network.
Presented by an animated pencil, but no less authoritative for it, From Len Lye to Gollum traces the history of Kiwi animation from birth in 1929, to the triumphs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The interviews and animated footage cover every base, from early pioneers (Len Lye, Disney import John Ewing) to the possibilities opened by computers (Weta Digital, Ian Taylor’s Animation Research). Along the way Euan Frizzell remembers the dog he found hardest to animate and the famous blue pencil; and Andrew Adamson speculates on how ignorance helped keep Shrek fresh.
As a trench coat-clad protagonist enters the room, the jazzy soundtrack and copious shadows promise a claymation exercise in film noir. But the room advertised in director Barry Prescott’s first short film is no ordinary rental. It soon becomes apparent that a more unusual threat is responsible for the lack of furnishings and tenants — and it threatens the man and his oversized revolver. Television has been accused of rotting brains, but this short takes the allegation to the next level. Unfurnished Room for Rent screened at the Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.
Disappear is a wordless tale of a man who wishes life wasn't always so busy. Described by its creator as being about the way "our dreams often take a backseat to the daily grind", the short film has a unique look thanks to its black and white stop motion animation. Kiwi Hendrikus De Vaan created the passion project in his garage over two and a half years, utilising complex camera moves that are far harder to pull off in stop motion than with live action. The result won a place in the 2014 NZ International Film Festival, and the approval of Aardman Animations legend Peter Lord.
Life on Ben is a partly-animated series for kids exploring the intricacies of skin life. Gordon and Gloob (voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Boy director Taika Waititi) are two symbiotic creatures who go on an unexpected stop motion journey. When their host, 10-year-old Ben, gets an itch in his butt, the plasticine duo find themselves exiled to his nostril. On their quest to get home they meet a petri dish of other microbial folk. Created by Luke Nola (Let’s Get Inventin’), the 10 two-minute episodes — in full here — were distributed internationally.
“Ask your mother!” That’s what John Fallow’s father told him, when he said he’d like to join the navy at the outbreak of World War II. She relented and John embarked on his wartime career aboard minesweepers. A six month course in Australia followed and, after exemplary work, an accelerated promotion; just one of three granted by the Royal NZ Navy during the war. Clearing mines from major ports following the sinking of the RMS Niagara outside the Hauraki Gulf led to working alongside US allies in the Pacific. John had a lucky war. His ship never fired a shot in anger.
This was one of two short promos that screened in cinemas to celebrate 100 years of New Zealand film. A stop motion plasticine figure morphs from one classic Kiwi film moment to another. Director Greg Page starts with National Film Unit newsreels, before jumping to the renaissance of Kiwi film that began in the late 1970s. Included are Goodbye Pork Pie, An Angel at My Table and Braindead. The promos (John O'Shea directed the other) were funded by the NZ Film Commission with support from Kodak, the Film Unit and the Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision).