Out of the Mist: An Alternate History of New Zealand Cinema

Web, 2015 (Full Length and Trailer)

Savouring the chance to demonstrate that Kiwi cinema is about far more than the usual suspects found on so many top 10 lists, critic Tim Wong provides his own angle on the topic in this film, narrated by Luminaries author and occasional actor Eleanor Catton. Ranging widely — from experimental works, to an often forgotten contender for first Kiwi horror movie — Out of the Mist marked the first of three essay films aiming to “advocate for art on the margins”. Director Wong founded film and arts website The Lumière Reader in 2004.

Stray

Film, 2018 (Trailer)

Director Dustin Feneley’s first feature is set in a wintry Central Otago landscape. It charts the relationship between a man on parole (Kieran Charnock from The Rehearsal and short Cub) and a woman just out of a psychiatric facility (Arta Dobroshi, from Belgian film Lorna’s Silence). A crowdfunding campaign raised $125,000 towards the long in development film. At its 2018 Moscow International Film Festival premiere, Stray scored a Best Actor award for Charnock. Critics found it "compelling and haunting" (The NZ Herald) and "indelibly beautiful" (Stuff).

Strata

Film, 1983 (Excerpts)

In Geoff Steven's Kiwi riff on the European art film, a vulcanologist (Brit character actor Nigel Davenport) roams the Volcanic Plateau accompanied by a journalist, a photographer and escapees from a cholera quarantine. Steamy philosophical musings and symbolic intent made for a marked departure from the realism of the NZ feature film renaissance (e.g. Steven’s own Skin Deep). The second feature produced by John Maynard (The Navigator), this moody allegorical tale was co-scripted by Czech writer/designer Ester Krumbachova and Czech-based Kiwi Michael Havas.

Kaleidoscope - Vincent Ward

Television, 1989 (Full Length Episode)

This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at Vincent Ward's first two features, Vigil and The Navigator. The director talks about the madness of the Cannes Film Festival, echoes Jack Nicholson's view that women are "a lot smarter than men", and explains why a nuclear sub turns up in The Navigator. He visits his parent's Wairarapa farm, where they remember him as a straightforward and easygoing child. Fiona Kay provides unsparing memories of starring in Vigil as a child, and the film's co-writer Graeme Tetley admires Ward's courage in tackling "big issues" like guilt and betrayal.

Woodenhead

Film, 2003 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Innocent Gert, who works in a rubbish dump, can't believe his luck when he's ordered by his boss to take his beautiful mute daughter, Princess Plum, to meet her prospective husband. The two set off on a mythical quest through a fairytale Far North landscape. On the way they encounter freaks and monsters, and experience danger and romance. In an unusual reversal, the voices and music for Woodenhead were all recorded before filming. This surreal second feature from Elam art school grad Florian Habicht took Aotearoa to the arthouse with unprecedented weirdness and wonder.

The Piano

Film, 1993 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Topless Women Talk about Their Lives

Film, 1997 (Trailer and Excerpts)

A group of 20-somethings revolving around pregnant Liz (Danielle Cormack) confront a Generation X medley of 'births, deaths, and marriages' in Harry Sinclair’s debut feature, developed from the eponymous TV3 series. They experience, "the agony of failed love and ambiguous love, the agony of loneliness, the ecstasy of sex and the discovery of maturity" (Australian critic Andrew L Urban). In this excerpt from the well-received film the cast faces vexing coathangers, skirts, rubber gloves and panic attacks. NSFW caution: features actual Teutonic topless women.

The Frighteners

Film, 1996 (Trailer)

Peter Jackson’s fifth feature is a playful blend of comedy, thriller and supernatural horror and was an effective Hollywood calling card for Weta FX. Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) resides in Fairwater, where he runs a supernatural scam. Aided by some spectral consorts, he engineers hauntings and “exorcises” the ghosts for a fee. When a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals, the FBI suspects Frank is the culprit. To clear his name, Frank must deal to the real perpetrator – none other than the Grim Reaper ...

Heavenly Creatures

Film, 1994 (Trailer)

The movie that won splatter king Peter Jackson mainstream respectability was born from writer Fran Walsh's long interest in the Parker-Hulme case: two 1950s teens who invented imaginary worlds, wrote under imaginary personas, and murdered Pauline Parker's mother. Jackson and Walsh's vision of friendship, creativity and tragedy was greeted with Oscar nominations, deals with indie company Miramax, and rhapsodic acclaim for the film, and newbie actors Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Time magazine and 30 other publications named it one of the year's 10 best films.

Desperate Remedies

Film, 1993 (Trailer and Excerpts)

This stylishly high camp melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells won acclaim, after debuting at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In the imaginary 19th-century town of Hope, draper Dorothea Brooks (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is desperate to save her sister from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to help; but complications ensue. Inspired partly by 1930s and 40s Hollywood melodramas, Desperate Remedies was sumptously shot by Leon Narbey (Whale Rider). Richard King writes about the film here.