Producer and director Colin McRae has a television career spanning 40 years. In that time he has worked in news and current affairs for both TVNZ and TV3, and was the private channel’s Head of Sport to boot. His ground-breaking historical series The New Zealand Wars won Best Documentary Series at the 2006 Qantas Media Awards. In recent years, McRae has produced Native Affairs and Anzac Day coverage for Māori Television.
This award-winning 1973 TV drama follows the career of PM Richard 'King Dick' Seddon from the events leading to his premiership in 1893, until his death in 1906. Writer Michael Noonan intersperses speeches and cabinet discussions with vignettes of Seddon's interaction with pressure groups and voters. Tony Currie (Close to Home) won a Feltex Award as the colourful Seddon, who forced through groundbreaking legislation. Listener reviewer Roger Hall praised it as New Zealand's "best historical documentary" to date. Watch out for broadcaster Brian Edwards as an opposition MP.
This was New Zealand's first big historical drama after the controversy over the cost of The Governor almost a decade earlier. Over seven episodes — set between 1895 and 1914 — it followed the life of Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon, focussing on six of his most important cases. British actor David Gwillim played Hanlon, while Australian Robyn Nevin was cast as convicted baby murderer Minnie Dean in the first and most celebrated episode. A major critical, ratings and awards success, it immediately recouped its budget when the Minnie Dean episode spurred a big international sale.
This film tells the story of a group of Afghani refugees rescued from the high seas off Australia by the freighter, Tampa. It follows the fate of several boys who were given the chance of a fresh start in New Zealand. Deftly blending observational sequences and historical footage, Pacific Solution examines the socio-politicial context of a growing worldwide refugee crisis. It was filmed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Australia, Nauru and New Zealand. Pacific Solution was screened by TVNZ and at festivals internationally.
Hugh Macdonald’s long filmmaking career encompasses historical epics, Oscar-nominated shorts, and lots of time on the road. Macdonald is probably best-known for three-screen spectacular This is New Zealand, which got crowds queueing at World Expo in Japan, before playing for months back home. A two-decade long stint at the National Film Unit also saw him directing two episodes of historical epic The Governor, and producing the first of many animated shorts.
Reporter Paul Hobbs joins the Kiwis congregating at the Cannes Film Festival for this 2004 One Network News report. Hobbs is on the French Riviera to hear about two of the most expensive New Zealand stories yet to win funding: historical drama River Queen and vampire tale Perfect Creature. Hobbs hints at budgets north of $20 million. Among the Kiwis talking things up are NZ Film Commission Chief Executive Ruth Harley, River Queen investor Eric Watson, and director Roger Donaldson. Cliff Curtis pops by, and Fat Freddy's Drop lay down some party tunes.
Landmarks was a major 10-part series that traced the history of New Zealand through its landscape, particularly the impact of human settlement and technology. The concept was modelled on the epic BBC series America. Here a bespectacled, Swannie-wearing geography professor, Kenneth B Cumberland, stands in for Alistair Cooke, interweaving science, history and sweeping imagery to tell the stories of the landscape's "complete transformation". It received a 1982 Feltex Award for Best Documentary and the donnish but game Cumberland became a household name.
Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy, Leanne Pooley’s documentary was made to mark the Topp Twins' 50th birthday. New Zealand's favourite comedic, country singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters tell their personal story: from their 'coming out' to Jools' brush with breast cancer. The film features archive material, home movies and interviews with the Topps' alter egos. Alongside local box office success and dozens of international awards, Girls won the People’s Choice award for favourite documentary at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
TVNZ focused on contemporary urban issues in New Streets as a counterpoint to its epic Landmarks documentary series which charted NZ’s historical development. Over three episodes, Neil Roberts examined the rapid growth of South Auckland, the spotlight was placed on an arts employment scheme for disadvantaged Mangere youth, and writer Albert Wendt provided a personal perspective on how the traditional values of his Samoan community were coping with Auckland’s urban pressures. New Streets screened in Lookout, TV1’s early 80s local documentary slot.
Flip & Two Twisters is Shirley Horrocks' documentary about New Zealand-born artist Len Lye. Motion maestro Lye's international reputation rests on his work as a filmmaker and kinetic sculptor, and his lively contributions to the London and New York avant-garde. The documentary explores Lye's career and ideas, with the help of historical footage and excerpts from his films. It includes footage of Lye in typically exuberant form outlining his process, introduces many of his kinetic works, and documents how some of his most ambitious plans are being realised in New Zealand.