Paul Wolffram's film melds sounds from noted musicians Richard Nunns and Horomona Horo, recorded in spectacular locations around New Zealand, to demonstrate that the sounds of the natural world are a form of music too. Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro - traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. Debuting at the 2014 Wellington Film Festival, Voices of the Land pays tribute to Nunn's role in their revival, while Wolffram's powerhouse creative team use image and sound to show ways "landscape and the voices of the land can be heard".
Opening with an image of Orpheus floating on the water, this inspired doco climaxes with a contender for NZ's most eyeopening montage yet. Loaded with examples of the infinite ways the human voice can make music, the film sees host Julian Waring introducing choirs, opera, balladeers and protest singers. Along the way Michael Heath recreates a performance by Florence Foster Jenkins, a worryingly close cousin of Asian-New Zealand songbird Wing. The mash-up finale uses 2000 photographs to summarise two decades of music, in a scene that must have blown minds in the suburbs.
Conflicts over who has mana over the Whanganui river stretch back more than 160 years. Te Awa Tupua - Voices from the River explores connections between local iwi and the river, and how it can be protected for future generations. Working again with wife Janine Martin, psychologist/ director Paora Joseph (Tatarakihi - The Children of Parihaka) weaves together interviews, memorable images, and archive footage chronicling the 1995 occupation of Moutoa Gardens/ Pakaitore in central Whanganui. This feature-length documentary debuted at the 2014 NZ Film Festival.
From Jake the Muss to bounty hunter Jango Fett to talk show host, Temuera Morrison has played them all. In 2013 he played himself in this seven-part reality series, with cameras following over six months as he tried to revive his career. In this first episode, the easy-going actor has a birthday with his kids in hometown Rotorua, chats to his Hollywood agent about job possibilities from the rebirth of Star Wars, and faces up to learning an American accent. Later episodes saw him publicising hit film Mt Zion, and fielding an offer to direct.
New Zealand's unique accent is often derided across the dutch for its vowel-mangling pronunciation ("sex fush'n'chups", anyone?) and being too fast-paced for tourists and Elton John to understand. In this documentary Jim Mora follows the evolution of New Zealand English, from the "colonial twang" to Billy T James. Linguist Elizabeth Gordon explains the infamous HRT (High Rising Terminal) at the end of sentences, and Mora interprets such phrases as "air gun" ("how are you going?"). Lynn of Tawa also features, in an accent face-off with Sam Neill and Judy Bailey.
This film is an account of a 13-year-old boy's shoplifting escapade. It is narrated by a teen voice (Madeleine Sami) while adult actors act out the drama as kids. What starts out as teen shenanigans (a porn stash is accrued with the five-finger discount) turns unsettling as a beating is doled out by Dad as punishment. The contrast between the naive voice and what is seen on screen - shot in hand-held close ups - is grimly memorable. An early short from Gregory King, this disquieting tale of domestic abuse was selected for NZ and Melbourne Film Festivals.
Actor Miranda Harcourt directs an ode to her broadcaster father Peter in this short documentary. The film emerges from vocal chords (via an endoscope) and uses the tools of her father’s trade as a starting point for a free-ranging meditation on repression, shell shock and family ghosts. Peter’s wartime job involved vetting messages home from the troops to check that the soldier hadn’t been killed. Post-war, Peter was dumb-struck for a year, at a time when people didn’t “talk about their deeper feelings”. Voiceover won Best Short at the 1997 NZ Film and TV Awards.
'Welcome Home' was released in 2005. Dave Dobbyn has performed it many times since, including at the opening of a concert for victims of the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks. In 2017 he joined translator Te Haumihiata Mason and members of Māori group Maimoa Music, to create a te reo version of the track for Māori Language Week. Dobbyn found it "an honour and a privilege to sing in te reo". Here Dobbyn and Maimoa perform 'Nau Mai Rā' ('Welcome Home') at the climax of Tāngia Tō Arero ki te Reo, a live concert celebrating 2017's Te Wiki o te Reo Māori.
This National Film Unit documentary provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the various stages of 40s film production at the relatively nascent unit, from shoot to post production. It was made to be screened continuously (thus the ‘loop’ title) at exhibition theatrettes. There’s genial interaction among the cast and crew (see backgrounder for who they are). Directed by pioneer woman director Kathleen O’Brien, the filming took place at the unit’s Darlington Road studios in Wellington, close to where Weta Workshop and Park Road Post now operate in Miramar.
This documentary backgrounds the process of turning Murray Ball's comic strip into New Zealand's first animated feature. Who will voice the iconic Dog? Pat Cox, the original producer, stays off-screen; but there are interviews with perfectionist Footrot creator Murray Ball, fellow Manawatu scribe Tom Scott and John Clarke, who argues he narrowly beat Meryl Streep to provide the voice of Wal. Amongst the making of footage, the late Mike Hopkins (who won Oscar glory on Lord of the Rings) lends his feet to the sound effects. Tony Hiles writes about the making of the film here.