In the early hours of 1 January 1998 Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, two young partygoers in the Marlborough Sounds, were in a water taxi looking for a place to crash. They vanished and were never seen again. The investigation transfixed the nation, and led to the conviction of Scott Watson for murder. Directed for TV3 by John Keir (Flight 901: The Erebus Disaster), this 2002 documentary revisits the case from the perspective of two fathers — Gerald Hope and Chris Watson — and brings them together for the first time to talk about whether Scott Watson is guilty.
Promoter Joe Brown’s Search for Stars was a popular nationwide talent quest, broadcast on radio by Selwyn Toogood. This 1970 report from Living in New Zealand sees future TV executive Ernie Leonard interviewing entrants, during rehearsals at Rotorua’s Summer Carnival (including a young Tom Sharplin). Then it’s the 12 January grand final at the city's Sportsdome. Second place getter is 16-year-old Bunny Walters (who would go on to television fame, and score hits with 'Brandy' and 'Take the Money and Run'). Tui Fox won first prize: $2,000, and a recording contract with Brown.
This episode of Immigrant Nation features former Holidaymakers guitarist Pati 'Albert' Umaga, part of the first generation of New Zealand-born Samoans. Umaga's parents arrived in Wellington in 1950 as part of Samoa's Great Migration. Encouraged to speak Samoan at home, and English outside the house, Umaga drifted away from his family and culture, before finally coming to the realisation that Fa-a Samoan - The Samoan Way - has much to offer him in how he operates in Kiwi society. Umaga goes on to use his music as a way to reach Samoan youth.
In this documentary, Kiwi icon Lynn of Tawa (Ginette McDonald) — she of mangled vowel fame — goes on the prowl in search of the ultimate Kiwi bloke. The girl from the suburbs explores the gamut of masculine mythology, from Man Alone to mateship, and asks "can a woman ever be a mate?". Made when the good keen man was facing up to the challenge from SNAGs, the documentary travels from the West Coast (for sex education) to a men's club, from rugby scrums to rabbit culls, and meets hunters, lawyers and gay ten-pin bowlers. The opening credits mispell Lynn as Lyn.
This long-running reality series, made for TVNZ, follows the lives of dogs and their handlers: "fighting crime, saving lives", and helping protect New Zealand’s streets and borders. The very first episode sees the dog squad diffuse a street brawl in Manurewa, nab a runner from a crashed stolen car, and bust a visitor trying to smuggle contraband into Waikeria Prison in the Waikato. Plus avalanche rescue dogs are trained at Mt Hutt ski resort. This first Dog Squad series was produced by Cream Media (the company was taken over by Greenstone TV in 2010).
Though it plays hell with cameras, Antarctica has long fascinated filmmakers. This hour-long National Film Unit documentary was assembled from a five-part TV series of the same name. There are looks at scientific research, early explorers, and Antarctica's affect on global climate. Made four decades ago, the programme warns of a possible "new and potentially dangerous warming period", and calls the greenhouse effect a "controversial scientific theory". The large cast includes penguins, a seal birth (clip two) and a heavyweight team of Kiwi scientists.
This 1970 documentary surveys New Zealand’s dairy industry — “probably the most advanced in the world” — from pasture to export. Dairying then produced a quarter of NZ’s income, but with Britain due to join the EEC, NZ was forced to seek new markets. This film proclaims the industry’s readiness, thanks to an artificial breeding centre (with ‘calf-eteria’), room-sized computers, and cheeses designed for the Asian market. The country's 25,000 dairy farms were each owner-operated, and averaged 90 cows. The Dairy Industry won top prize at an agricultural film competition in Berlin.
On 28 November 1979, an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica, killing all 257 people on board. It was the worst civil aviation disaster in NZ history and at the time, the fourth worst in the world. Made independently of state TV, Flight 901 was the first in-depth documentary on the accident. It surveys the novelty of Antarctic tourist flights, the search and rescue operation, and controversy over causes stirred by the Peter Mahon-led Royal Commission of Inquiry. This 15 minute excerpt was edited for NZ On Screen by director John Keir.
A pocket survey of the diversity of Kiwi farming circa 1952, this film serves as a booster’s reminder that thanks to self-reliance and research, New Zealand ranks as “one of the world’s great farming countries”. Cameraman Brian Brake captures arresting high contrast imagery: cattle move in silhouette against the sky; dust-caked fertiliser trucks emerge from clouds of lime; shirtless WWII veterans load silage onto harvesters. Meanwhile an upbeat, nationalistic voiceover pays homage to the holy trinity of good pasture, stock and climate.
The fierce cold and awesome isolation of Antarctica is evoked in this 1980 NFU survey of scientific projects and life on New Zealand’s Ross Dependency. Geological and wildlife work is counterpointed by domestic details: a “housewifely” cleaning regime, an impressive liquor order, time-marking beards, and radio chatter at odds with the desolation. There’s poignant footage of one of the last sightseeing flights before the Erebus disaster; and the doco grapples with the uneasy possibility that research may lead to exploitation of the continent’s natural resources.