The often controversial beliefs of Sir Lloyd Geering, New Zealand’s best known theologian, are examined in this Top Shelf documentary. In this excerpt he visits Jerusalem to argue that the resurrection of Jesus shouldn't be interpreted literally. Forty years earlier, this assertion divided the Presbyterian Church (where he was Principal of Knox College) and led to his heresy trial on charges of “doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the church”. There is archive footage of an unrepentant Geering from the two-day trial, which was broadcast live by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation.
After nearly 50 years living under New Zealand rule, Western Samoa gained its independence on 1 January 1962. Pictorial Parade visits Apia to witness the special occasion. Among the dignitaries taking part in the ceremony are Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Mata'afa Mulinu'u II, joint heads of state Tupua Tamasese Mea’ole and Malietoa Tanumafili II, and Kiwi PM Keith Holyoake. The Western Samoa flag is hoisted before the first parliament sits, while hundreds of locals sing and dance in the heat of the day. The country dropped the first part of its name in 1997.
Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses threatening ecology and traffic. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a fabled silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues. In the notoriously fraught production a stable of Kiwi acting legends perform a melange of western and freedom-on-the-range genre turns (with the conservationists oddly set up as the bad guys).
The Stolen follows English migrant Charlotte Lockton (Alice Eve, from Star Trek: Into Darkness) as she sets out to track down her kidnapped baby in gold rush era 1860s New Zealand. En route she meets gamblers, hustlers, prostitutes and Māori warriors. Bringing the era to life are Scotsman Graham McTavish (The Hobbit), Brit James Davenport (as the romantic interest), Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O’Brien, Cohen Holloway and singer Stan Walker. Produced and originated by London-based Kiwi Emily Corcoran, the film was directed by Brit Niall Johnson (comedy Keeping Mum).
In this odd couple tale set in the American west, Cohen Holloway (Until Proven Innocent, Boy) plays an outlaw who abducts an upper class Brit. Calamity ensues when the hardman fails to have his wicked way with her. The self-funded film screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, winning praise from critic Leonard Maltin. While Utu took the Western genre and applied it to NZ's colonial history, Good for Nothing mines South Island scenery for the first 'Pavlova Western'. Long-time Weta staffer Mike Wallis directs; and the rousing score is by composer John Psathas.
The stars in an Auckland harbour master’s eyes are of the cowboy variety in this documentary that goes behind the scenes of the Western Districts' Fast Draw Club. The westie club takes literal inspiration from its name, as its members — from truck drivers to accountants — meet in the basement of a dairy to recreate scenes from the American wild west. Director Greg Stitt aimed to explore, “the fantasies ordinary people need to survive”; and his partly-dramatised doco details the impressive preparation (and passion) that goes into the live shows and stunts.
In the late 90s Kiwi treasures The Topp Twins (aka Lynda and Jools Topp) created their own TV series. Over three seasons it showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters and singing and yodelling talents. These excerpts from the second season feature a country and western saloon musical dream sequence (with fluffy pink slippers, feather boas and sharpshooters and car sharks in drag). Meanwhile Camp Mother and Ken Moller compete at the speedway in a bambina and a Hillman Hunter respectively.
This 1983 film looks at New Zealand in World War II, via a compilation of footage from the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series, which screened in NZ cinemas from 1941 to 1946. It begins with Prime Minister Savage’s “where Britain goes, we go” speech, and covers campaigns in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, and life on the home front. The propaganda film excerpts are augmented with narration and graphics giving context to the war effort. Helen Martin called it "a fascinating record of documentary filmmaking at a crucial time in the country’s history".
This 1961 edition of Pictorial Parade visits Western Samoa shortly before it gains independence from New Zealand. Locals are seen voting in the May referendum, where a huge majority voted to self-rule. Surgeon Ioane Okesene and his large family feature in this newsreel; daughter Karaponi is filmed marrying her Kiwi partner Bill McGrath in Apia. (Trivia fact: Rugby legend Michael Jones' mother, Maina Jones, is among the wedding guests.) Western Samoa's close ties to Aotearoa are highlighted, with stories of locals moving downunder to study, such as medical student Margaret Stehlin.
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.