Cartoonist and writer Dylan Horrocks heads to England to trace his family lineage in this documentary, which mixes science and history. Horrocks uses DNA analysis to investigate if he is related to 17th century English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks. In 1639 the scientist was the first person to observe the Transit of Venus. This planetary movement prompted Captain James Cook to travel to the Pacific. Horrocks heads to Tolaga Bay to view the transit in 2012, a special moment as the next one will be in 2117. The 70-minute film is directed by Dylan's stepmother Shirley Horrocks.
Paul Callaghan (1947 - 2012) was an internationally celebrated scientist, and a passionate advocate for Aotearoa. He was a popular science communicator (including a radio show with Kim Hill), campaigned to make New Zealand “a place where talent wants to live”, and championed the idea of a predator-free New Zealand. Shirley Horrocks' documentary focuses on the field that Callaghan became a world expert in — magnetic resonance — and interviews Callaghan's family, colleagues, students and friends. The film was invited to play at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
This telefeature imagines the build up to, and aftermath, of an Auckland volcanic eruption. The last big one produced Rangitoto, and scientist Clive de Roo (Mark Mitchinson from Siege) is the man who discovers under the mountain rumblings, 600 years later. Citizens are non-plussed until the top pops. Eruption was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group and was one of the last projects completed by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil) before his death in 2011. The Gibson Group had earlier produced 2008 earthquake in Wellington drama Aftershock.
This 1952 film ventures off the Bay of Plenty coast to New Zealand’s most active volcano: White Island. The National Film Unit production joins a team of DSIR scientists, supposedly the first humans in more than a decade to to view this “fantastic laboratory of nature”. They camp in the ruins of a sulphur mill, where the acidic fumes have disintegrated factory engines. Steam in fumeroles destroys thermometers — “mapping the land brings the party to many a scene like this: a scene from The Inferno”. Elsewhere, gannets nest, defying the inhospitable environment.
This animated short is set in "not so distant future" Aotearoa, where a plague has devastated livestock farming. The morbid nursery rhyme, narrated by Geraldine Brophy, tells of a scientist who creates a "different kind of meat from the resources still here". Matasila Freshwater's short was picked for the 'New Zealand’s Best' section of the 2016 NZ International Film Festival, by a team that included director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors). It also screened at Spain's Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, and won Best Animated Short at Sydney festival A Night of Horror.
Aotearoa is the last big land mass on earth discovered and settled by people (orthodox history suggests Māori arrived around 1280). Directed by Mark McNeill, this Greenstone TV documentary examines controversial evidence put forward to claim an alternative pre-Māori settlement — from cave drawings and carvings, to rock formations and statues. Historians, scientists, museum curators, and amateur archaeologists weigh up the arguments, DNA, carbon, and oral stories of the early Waitaha people, to sift hard fact from mysticism and hope.
Pre-dating Peter Jackson's arrival (Bad Taste) by three years, New Zealand's first horror movie sees Michael Hurst making his movie debut as he fights mutants (including Bruno Lawrence) on Waiheke Island. Hurst's character is out to avenge the mad scientist who forced him to kill his parents. A grand prize-winner at a French fantasy festival (with cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky on the jury), David Blyth's splatterfest marked the first of many horrors funded by the NZ Film Commission. It was also the first local showcase of the smoothly-flowing Steadicam camera.
Mixing three separate strands, On an Unknown Beach is a so-called “‘speculative documentary" about journeys into landscapes of ruin. Sonic artist Bruce Russell explores the ruined Christchurch CBD, scientist Di Tracey captures compelling underwater footage while examining coral damage on the seabed, and poet David Hornblow undergoes hypnotherapy to explore his consciousness and past experiences with addiction. The film was made by Adam Luxton and Summer Agnew, whose 2005 documentary Minginui (2005) focussed on an ex-forestry town in the North Island.
In director Geoff Murphy's cult sci fi feature, a global energy project has malfunctioned and scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) awakes to find himself the only living being left on earth. At first he lives out his fantasies, helping himself to cars and clothes, before the implications of being 'man alone' sink in. As this awareness sends him to the brink of madness — see the excerpt above — he discovers two other survivors. One of them is a woman. The Los Angeles Daily News called the movie “quite simply the best science-fiction film of the 80s”. Read more about it here.
Director Nic Gorman won best short at the 2013 NZ Film Awards for zombie tale Here Be Monsters. With his first feature he shifts horror genres to the psychological thriller, as a mysterious new arrival (Vinnie Bennett) disturbs subantarctic island life for a husband and wife scientist team (Fantail's Sophie Henderson and Siege's Mark Mitchinson). Human Traces debuted at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival. NZ Herald reviewer George Fenwick praised the "stunning cinematography" and "impressive performances", arguing they helped produce a "fine debut" for Gorman.