Biographer Michael King takes us through the life of pioneering writer Frank Sargeson: from puritanical parents to self-discovery in London, through to decades encouraging an emerging tide of New Zealand writers. The documentary’s most priceless moments are the tales told when four of those writers return to Sargeson’s fabled fibrolite bach, in Takapuna. Kevin Ireland calls it an “oasis, this marvellous place where books ruled supreme”. Sargeson’s purposefuly minimalistic writing style, the doco argues, helped NZ literature find its own voice.
As a bitter civil war tears apart the lives of his students, an isolated English school teacher in Bougainville (House star Hugh Laurie) finds a unique way to create hope; 14-year-old Matilda (Xzannjah Matsi) is enthralled by his Charles Dickens-infused disaster survival lessons. The life during wartime tale was directed by Kiwi Andrew Adamson (Shrek), and adapted from the 2006 Booker Prize short-listed novel by Lloyd Jones. Adamson spent time in Papua New Guinea, as the teen son of missionary parents. Laurie and Matsi won best actor gongs at the 2013 Moa Awards.
In this documentary children's author Margaret Mahy is interviewed at her Governors Bay home by friend and fellow author Elizabeth Knox. Many of Mahy's beloved storybook characters also appear to put her on the spot about their origins. In this excerpt, the famous lion from A Lion in the Meadow thanks her for making him yellow, and Mahy talks about eating porridge thrice a day as a young solo mum. Yvonne Mackay directed this seamless mix of real life and Euan Frizzell-created animation. Read more about the doucmentary here.
This high-rating 1999 documentary follows Gary McCormick to Ireland to investigate "those strands which tie" Kiwis to the Emerald Isle, from Dublin to the north, where his forebears originated in the 1870s. He meets locals, (musicians, tinkers, playwrights, scuba divers) and Kiwi expats, and talks The Troubles, Celtic Tigers, and why Irish emigrated to Aotearoa. Irish Connection was another collaboration between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison (Heartland, Raglan by the Sea). Companion title The London Connection saw McCormick examining Kiwi links to London.
In this mini ScreenTalk interview, New Zealand screen expert Roger Horrocks provides a quick guide to breakthrough 1970s drama series Winners & Losers — who made it, where they managed to find the funding, and why the series is so important for the Kiwi screen industry.
Barry Crump's iconic deer hunting yarn A Good Keen Man captured Kiwi imaginations. Published in 1960, it quickly sold 300,000 copies, and with Crump cast as an "ironic, laconic sort of super-bushman", made him a legendary literary figure. This excerpt from the award-winning documentary looks at Crump's upbringing and early success as a writer. The full 72-minute documentary covers everything from his fractured family relationships, violence, a life-changing incident on a bush camp, and discovering religion, to the ads for Toyota that reignited Crump's profile in the 80s.
This documentary about Māori writer Witi Ihimaera features him in conversation with filmmaker Merata Mita. Ihimaera traverses his life and writing career, emphasising the importance of family (particularly his mother and grandmother) and his overriding Māori identity. Aileen O'Sullivan's film features a star-studded assemblage of local literature — Keri Hulme, Albert Wendt, publisher Geoff Walker — and a dramatised excerpt from his novel Bulibasha ( featuring Rena Owen, Michael Hurst and Rawiri Paratene), shot roughly two decades before 2016 movie adaptation Mahana.
This 2001 Mercury Lane episode is based around pieces on author Maurice Shadbolt, and OMC producer Alan Jansson. With Shadbolt ailing from Alzheimer’s, Michelle Bracey surveys his life as an “unauthorised author” (Shadbolt would die in 2004). Next Colin Hogg reveals Jansson as the “invisible pop star” behind OMC hit ‘How Bizarre’ and more. The show is bookended by readings from Kiwi poets: Hone Tuwhare riffs on Miles Davis, Fleur Adcock reads the saucy Bed and Breakfast, and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell mourns a brother who fought for the Māori Battalion.
A fictional memoir of a 12-year-old boy's holiday on his uncle's farm, Old Man's Story is also a character study of the personable, potentially dodgy ex-sailor who works there as hired hand. When an orphaned girl comes to stay, there are worries the man has crossed the line in his relationship with her. The first drama for Wellington company The Gibson Group, Old Man's Story also marks a rare screen adaptation of author Frank Sargeson, whose tales of losers and outsiders made him "one of the founders of a modern New Zealand literature" (Lawrence Jones).
Presented by Alison Parr, this 1997 TVNZ arts series focused on New Zealand literature and writers; it featured studio interviews with authors. The Write Stuff was made by Pinnacle Productions — Amanda Evans, Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Di Oliver-Zahl — who were also behind contemporary arts series For Arts Sake. There were 26 30-minute episodes. Those interviewed included Emily Perkins, Bill Manhire, Sonja Davies, Barbara Else, Kate de Goldi, and Marilyn Duckworth. The Write Stuff screened on TV One.