Godzone is “timber country” in this seventh slot in the New Zealand Now series. The NFU film looks at the world of the Kiwi bushman, as milling is providing the raw material for a postwar housing boom. The narrators provide a good keen guide to life in the remote and tiny (six houses) North Island town of Oraukura, where timber men fell giant native trees during the day and split kindling after work. For the men it’s a hard, but good life; for their wives it’s “pretty dull”. The Axemen’s Carnival in Taumarunui features OSH-unsanctioned woodchopping in socks.
This classic kids’ adventure series follows a boy trying to find his missing father, amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. The show displayed unprecedented production values, and demonstrated that Kiwi-made kids’ drama could be successfully exported. This first episode sees Scott Hunter (Andrew Hawthorn) steal away to Tucker’s Valley, spurred on by his unsympathetic uncle. In the background pieces, writer Roger Simpson recalls creating 13 scripts at high speed, and director Tom Parkinson writes about the Kiwi landscape as character, and finding the production team.
Bagpipes, haggis, and the heartbreak of leaving home; Hoots Mon examines those who have migrated from Scotland to Aotearoa. In the 1840s a group of Scots settlers started a new life in Dunedin, after breaking off from the Church of Scotland. Ayrshire-born director John Bates talks to some of their descendants, and heads to the far north to interview others with Caledonian roots, in Waipu. Alongside some impressive Richard Long camerawork, the interviews include composer Steve McDonald, whose ancestral research has inspired several Celtic-themed albums.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 1990s they created their own award-winning TV series which ran for three seasons. It showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. This episode from the third and final series features the twins in their many guises enjoying an afternoon at the Waipu Highland Games. "Look at the leather work in that sporran!"
Open House revolved around the ups and downs of a drop-in house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten, later Outrageous Fortune's Grandpa Ted). In this first episode there's money trouble, court trouble, domestics, a pregnant teenager and an abandoned baby ... but there's community spirit aplenty as the house's whānau prepares for its first birthday celebration, complete with Scottish brass band and Samoan drums. Tony's first lines to a raving old man on Petone Beach? "Good onya mate!". Features author Emily Perkins as Tony's idealistic stepdaughter.
Chic Littlewood’s afterschool show for children featured skits performed by Chic and his puppets to link cartoons and other overseas programming. Chic should be in control — but the real star here is the somewhat wayward Willie McNabb (from a Scottish family of mice courtesy of Auckland theatre doyenne Alma Woods). Chic and Willie are never quite on the same wavelength — and Chic’s Gramps character has even less chance of matching wits with him. Mother McNabb appears briefly — while the apparently ogre-like producer is an ominous but unseen presence.
One of two much loved children’s shows written and presented by English born entertainer Chic Littlewood in the late 70s and early 80s. The other was Chic-a-boom — and more than 500 episodes were made of the two programmes in what now looks like a much gentler era of children’s television. Littlewood was aided and abetted by various puppets including Nowcy the Dog and the McNabb family of Scottish mice (including the mischievous and contrary Willie). Assisting with the puppets was actor, and stalwart of Auckland theatre, Alma Woods.
Bookended by cameo appearances from the Queen and Robert Muldoon, this National Film Unit short offers a brief history of the various buildings that graced Wellington’s parliamentary lawns, before moving to the main event: the design and building of the Beehive. Plans are drawn up after acceptance of Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence’s “bold, circular design”. Then we watch as one of NZ’s most iconic structures is born from a gaping hole in the ground in 30 seconds of swift cuts. At the official launch, a still youthful looking Queen expresses her approval.
Framed by the distinctive burr of influential Scottish thinker RD Laing, this 1977 doco questions how the Western medical system handles childbirth: in Laing's view, "one of the disaster areas of our culture." Supported by arresting hospital footage and impassioned interviews with mothers, the film argues that women are often deliberately sidelined during the process of birth, and babies' needs ignored. Screenings in the UK and US saw it contributing to a debate about newborn care; one that remains ongoing. Birth won a Feltex award for best documentary.
The five-part series told the story of colonial outlaw James Mackenzie: accused of rustling 1000 sheep in the high country that would bear his name. His escapades on the lam elevated him to folk hero status. Like producer John McRae’s prior series, Hunter’s Gold, the South Pacific Television ‘prestige’ drama was made with export in mind. Adapted from James McNeish’s book, the early co-production — with Scottish TV, where the opening episode was shot — imported Caledonian lead actor James Cosmo (Braveheart, Game of Thrones) and veteran UK TV director Joan Craft.