Sam Neill moved from directing at the National Film Unit, to becoming one of New Zealand's most internationally successful actors. His resume of 60+ features includes lead roles in a number of local movies, from a man alone in breakout feature Sleeping Dogs to an unusual reverend in Dean Spanley.
A man stands alone in a room, watched by unsmiling faces, before literally falling into the rest of the group. Young women dance in time, their shoes belting out a rhythm on a wooden floor. A strange ritual of falling and rising is played out on a fog-shrouded hill. In this beautifully-lensed dance film, director Warren Green and choreographer Megan Adams take a new approach to showcasing the talents of acting students from drama school Toi Whakaari. The shifting, syncopated soundtrack is by Hamish Walker and David Holmes of Kog Transmissions.
One morning, as kids are stealing apples from an old man’s orchard high above a seaside town, an earthquake hits. No one is hurt, and the townsfolk are non-plussed, but the old man is agitated: he alone is aware of the imminent tsunami and tries to warn the village. Based on a classic Japanese fable, The Orchard was made by one-man band Bob Stenhouse, who had been nominated for an Academy Award the previous decade for pioneer tale The Frog, The Dog and The Devil. Fans of the animator will recognise the lush, luminous hand-drawn style.
Alone in his cell, a deeply disturbed old man delivers a psychotic monologue, and reveals an alarming secret in this darkly funny claymation short from the workshop of Tom Reilly. Reilly made his first claymation short in 2001 and is one of just a few New Zealand animators using this technique. Three more shorts and a children's TV series won him the SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2003. He is now directing live action TV and commercials and his documentary on a wesitie misfit car-yard operator — Gordonia — was released to positive reviews in 2010.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
Smith (Sam Neill, in his breakthrough screen role) is devastated when his wife runs off with his best friend Bullen (Ian Mune). Smith escapes to the Coromandel. Meanwhile, the government enlists an anti-terrorist force to crack down on its opponents. Bullen, now a guerrilla, asks Smith to join the revolution. Directed by Roger Donaldson, this adaptation of CK Stead's novel Smith's Dream heralded a new wave of Kiwi cinema; it was one of the only local films of the 1970s to win a big local audience. This excerpt includes a much talked about scene: a baton charge by government forces.
Bruce Graham, wife Lynn and son Mark are in the funeral business, serving the people in the Waikato town of Tūākau at their darkest times. This episode of First Hand takes place in the aftermath of local man Athel Parsons' death, from collecting his body to his funeral and cremation. Athel lived alone but was from a large family. He contributed to his town through his love of sports, in particular indoor bowls. As Bruce organises Athel's farewell we learn about both men's lives, and how the most common of events can affect a small community.
For three decades, playwright and critic Bruce Mason played intelligent, impassioned witness to many key developments in Kiwi theatre and culture; a number of them his own. His play The Pohutukawa Tree has spawned more than 180 productions, and was watched by 20 million after being adapted for the BBC. The End of the Golden Weather is both a classic solo play, and movie.
One of New Zealand's best known screen actors, Sam Neill possesses a blend of everyman ordinariness, charm and good looks that have made him an international leading man. His resume of television and 70+ feature films includes leading roles in landmark New Zealand movies, from a man alone on the run in breakout feature Sleeping Dogs to the repressed settler in The Piano.
One of many talents to emerge from legendary Wellington company Pacific Films in the 1970s, Mike Hardcastle was often behind the camera during the renaissance of Kiwi feature films. Then he took a break and returned to the industry as the man who could not only shoot your project, but edit it too. Hardcastle passed away on 24 August 2016.