Director Sima Urale's follow-up to her Venice-winning short O Tamaiti swaps a Samoan child's eye view for that of an elderly Pākehā couple. In this moving confrontation with the taboos of aging, the husband struggles to care for his ailing wife and refuses their children's demands that they move into care. Exquisite attention to details and tender performances mark this tale of love accommodating the reality of death. Still Life was the first Kiwi film to take the top short award at the Montreal Film Festival; it also got a Special Mention at the Locarno fest in Switzerland.
In the mid-1990s one of Peter Peryer's photographs caused a diplomatic stir. 'Dead Steer' depicted the bloated carcass of a cow on a lonely New Zealand roadside, and the then Agriculture Minister protested its inclusion in a German exhibition of Peryer's work. This documentary from prolific arts director Shirley Horrocks examines the life and career of this important New Zealand artist. Peryer was awarded an ONZM for his contribution to photography and in 2000 became one of five inaugural laureates of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. He died in November 2018.
By the time she died in 1947 aged 78, expat Frances Hodgkins was recognised as a key figure in British art. Subtitled 'A Painter of Genius', this 1989 Kaleidoscope portrait mixes archival material with recreations of Hodgkins working in England in the 1940s, and being interviewed by Vogue. Her "gypsy" life ranges from a Dunedin upbringing, leaving New Zealand in 1901, to painting and teaching in Europe, and struggles with poverty and health. After embracing modernism in the 1920s, her art combined still life and landscape in original ways. TV veteran (and artist) Peter Coates directs.
Man. Woman. Motorcycle. Beach. Road. This short film makes clear that Rodney Charters had a certain way with images, long before he got busy shooting television (24, Roswell) in the USA. Charters directed Film Exercise while he was an arts student in Auckland in the 1960s. It helped him win a place at London's Royal College of Art. Favouring music and unusual angles over dialogue, the film celebrates the joys of being young and on the move, while capturing scenes of Auckland nightlife including a Mt Eden party. The La De Da's supply the custom-built soundtrack.
Rizk Alexander found himself in a rare situation during WWI — he was an Ottoman subject who chose to fight for the British Empire. His brief life still holds a fascination for his descendants. From a Syrian Christian family, Alexander had only been in New Zealand three years, when the 17-year-old signed up for war. Hoping to fight the Turkish Ottomans, he instead ended up on the Western Front, proving himself at the Battle of Messines in 1917. Later gassed, Alexander returned to Wellington to recuperate but he never fully recovered, dying in 1924. He was 27.
A homage to Dusky Maiden images as well as a playful take on the low art of velvet painting, Sima Urale’s Velvet Dreams provides a tongue-in-cheek exploration of Pacific Island stereotypes. Part detective story, part documentary, an unseen narrator goes in search of a painting of a Polynesian princess that he has fallen in love with. Along the way he meets artists, fans and critics of the kitsch art genre, as well as the mysterious Gauguin-like figure of Charlie McPhee. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art series, Velvet Dreams played in multiple international film festivals.
Broadcaster Karyn Hay makes a "life enhancing" journey to 'Timor-Leste', not long after the withdrawal of United Nations Peacekeepers. Hay reads up on its war-riddled past and encounters mozzies and leaky boats, eats buffalo and snow-peas, and learns about the widows and guerilla fighters who resisted Indonesian occupation. She is transported beyond the troubles to wonder at ancient cave paintings, bathe in turquoise waters, and reflect on charming children — and her hope that eco-tourism will offer a better life for a nation she senses is still "in shock".
The Central Otago gold mining town of Cromwell celebrates its centenary in this NFU documentary. For a fortnight the townsfolk go about their ordinary business, but in colonial-era costume. They also re-enact the frontier-style life of gold rush New Zealand. Just 20 years before the film was shot, Cromwell banks were still receiving deposits of gold dust from customers. But the Cromwell of 1966 is also just a memory. While the old main street still exists, much of the town was flooded with the completion of the Clyde dam in 1993.
This National Film Unit documentary looks at thoroughbred racehorse breeding in New Zealand, an industry described as producing "the world's finest racing" — eg 1966 Melbourne Cup winner Galilee. Made when racing could arguably still be called our national sport, the film visits leading stud farms (such as Trelawney in the Waikato) to follow the life of a foal, from birth through yearling sales and training, to Wellington Cup race day — when roads are gridlocked with "a congregation whose bible is a racing almanac". The footage includes a 'good citizenship' school for jockeys.
“It’s not just a game. It’s a way of life”. This short film travels to the Central Otago town of Naseby: a rare bastion where the sport of curling is still practised on natural ice. But warmer winters may end the tradition. In their woollen 'tams' the southern ice men competing for NZ’s oldest sporting trophy provide a unique perspective on climate change. Made by Rachael Patching and Roland Kahurangi as part of Otago University’s science communication masters, the award-winning doco screened at Wildscreen and Banff film festivals.