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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The humble letterbox is targeted in this Aotearoa award-nominated science show, as radio DJ James Colman and music video director Greg Page attempt to “turbo” an everyday object. Their challenge is to move the mail 50 metres from postbox to household as quickly as possible. Coleman glimpses nirvana when he scores a rocket scientist for his team. Battle lines are soon drawn between big bang theory, and slower and steadier. In the pyrotechnics and rocket love that follow, Page sounds almost plausible when he claims his big truck solution as the cleaner, greener option.
This second episode of the three-part series following British MP Austin Mitchell’s return to the country where he began his career in (as a broadcaster and author of 1972 book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise) sees a focus on politics. The former Canterbury University political scientist gives a potted political history, from the roots of a conservative Kiwi political mien to the radical changes wrought by Lange’s 80s Labour government and the rise of women ‘on the hill’. Finally he considers tourism, Treaty settlements and the aspirations of Māori.