This National Film Unit doco illustrates the early days of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Performances from the company’s touring program include Bournonville’s Napoli, kiwi Arthur Turnbull’s Do-Wack-A-Do, a quirky 1930s flapper themed production (also with a NZ composer, Dorothea Franchi) and the tulle and poise of Fokine’s Les Sylphides. Prismatic Variations, choreographed by ballet company founder Poul Gnatt, and produced by another dance icon Russell Kerr, is the finale for this tribute to those who have made New Zealanders “ballet conscious.”
Our Stars of Ballet, a short documentary from ballet teacher turned NFU director Kathleen O'Brien, tracks the careers of New Zealand ballet icons Rowena Jackson and Alexander Grant, who both achieved success as principal dancers for major ballet companies in England. The film follows their visit to Wellington with the Royal Ballet in 1959; Jackson picnics by the harbour with dancer husband Philip Chatfield, while Grant visits Mt Victoria. The film ends with Jackson performing her famed multiple fouttés en tournant, for which she held the world record in 1959.
TVNZ’s 80s arts programme follows a Royal NZ Ballet visit to China in this documentary directed by Keith Hunter. The trip is billed as a cultural exchange but the term belies the stresses of missing equipment, a director who has lost his voice, language barriers, incorporating a local seven-year-old girl into their performance and, for some, the dishes at a banquet. On a rare day off, there’s a chance to marvel at the scale of the The Great Wall; and there are insights into the everyday lives of the Chinese people as the country begins to open itself up to the world.
In 2015 celebrated Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček and his twin brother and designer Otto adapted award-winning film The Piano into a full-length ballet. With her second big screen documentary, Crossing Rachmaninoff director Rebecca Tansley followed the pair as they arrive in New Zealand, and begin expanding their original production for a 2018 season with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Bubeníček faces difficult artistic decisions as he and Māori Advisor Moss Te Ururangi Patterson try to find common ground while deepening the ballet's Māori elements and themes.
South Pacific Pictures marked its 30th anniversary in 2018. With drama production at its core, this collection highlights the production company’s prodigious output. The collection spans everything from Marlin Bay to Westside — including hit movies Sione's Wedding and Whale Rider — plus the long-running and beloved Shortland Street. In the backgrounder, longtime SPP boss John Barnett reminisces, and charts the company’s history.
From the icons (Sky Tower, Otara Market, Rangitoto, The Bridge), celebs, clans and stereotypes (Jafas), to the streets (Queen St, K Road), and Super City suburbs (Ferndale, Mt Raskill, Morningside), this collection celebrates Auckland onscreen. Reel through the moods and the multicultural, metro, muggy charms of New Zealand’s largest city. In this backgrounder, No. 2 director Toa Fraser writes about Auckland as a place of myth, diversity and broken jaws.
Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
Snow collects together titles celebrating the scenic, recreational and spiritual call of New Zealand's mountains and ice. They include retro ski classics Flare and Off the Edge, Sir Ed saga Kaipo Wall, and NZ's first Oscar nominated film Snows of Aorangi. The collection features everything from ski ballet, Middle Earth glaciers and mountain parrots, to polar ice-fishing.
This collection shines a spotlight on all things dance-related. On pointe are ballet gems from the 1960s, 80s and the 90s, and ballroom dancing from Dancing with the Stars and Top Dance. Hip hop busts out some moves in The Palace, led by choreography sensation Parris Goebel. Also featured are contemporary dancers Douglas Wright (who turns up in multiple titles), Black Grace, Mary Jane O'Reilly, Taiaroa Royal and Michael Parmenter. And on the not so serious front, Suzanne Paul gets funky doing the 'Blue Monkey'.
This Royal New Zealand Ballet performance of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka stays true to the original 1911 version by legendary ballet company Ballet Russes, in more than just spelling. As tormented puppet Petrouchka, Douglas Wright pays tribute to legendary performer Vaslav Nijinsky. Designer Raymond Boyce channels Alexandre Benois, while Russell Kerr's choreography evokes Mikhail Fokine. The sellout season was reviewed as "phenomenal" and "a visual feast… exploding with colour and shifting image". Future TV executive Andrew Shaw directed coverage of the ballet.