The Weight of Elephants

Film, 2013 (Trailer)

Filmed in New Zealand’s deep south, this feature follows the vicissitudes of Adrian: a sensitive 11-year old haunted by the disappearance of three local children, who befriends mysterious new-in-town Nicole. The adaptation of Sonya Hartnett’s coming of age novel Of A Boy, is the feature debut of Denmark-based Dunedin-born director Daniel Joseph Borgman, following on from his lauded shorts Berik, and Lars and Peter. The creative team behind the 'informal' Danish-NZ co-production included frequent collaborators of directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.

Island of Strange Noises

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

The remote Antipodes Islands lie 860 kilometres southeast of Stewart Island. This 1980 documentary follows a Wildlife Service team surveying the islands’ inhabitants who are making all the strange noises – fur seals, albatrosses, petrels, parakeets and snipe, elephant seals and prolific penguins. It also investigates threats to their survival: mice and overfishing in the southern ocean. Winner of a Silver Medal at New York's International Film and Television Festival, this early Wild South episode helped establish the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).

A Whale Out My Window

Television, 1996 (Full Length)

Naturalist Ramari Stewart never tires of the view from a subantarctic hut. "This is the only place I know where I can see a whale out my window and it’s never let me down." The documentary follows Stewart as she spends a summer and winter monitoring wildlife at remote Northwest Bay in Campbell Island. Southern right whales, Hooker's sea lions and elephant seals all feature. Stewart, who later became a whale expert, displays a jaw-dropping bond with the animals. At the end of the programme, the whales cause a stir when they play perilously close to Stewart's boat.

Best of the Zoo - First Episode

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

Best of The Zoo takes highlights from the first three seasons of hit show The Zoo, and condenses them into a 10 episode series. This first episode stars an elephant and some cute red pandas. Struggling with arthritis and foot abscesses, Kashin the elephant is treated with massage, leather boots and light therapy. Meanwhile a set of red panda triplets capture hearts at Auckland Zoo. The pandas begin to grow up and are introduced to the public, though they’re a little shy at first. Zookeeper Trent Barclay later starred in Greenstone's spin-off show Trent’s Wild Cat Adventures.

Weekly Review No. 431

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

This edition of the NFU’s long-running Weekly Review series firstly looks at making of apparel for the 1950 Empire Games, including singlets "dyed in the traditional black". Then it’s down to Wellington Zoo to meet their new elephant, Maharanee; and across the harbour to examine earthmoving efforts to alter the Hutt River's course and save Barton’s Bush from being swept away. Lastly, it’s up Mt Egmont (aka Mt Taranaki) to follow good keen rangers trapping possums and shooting goats — some hiding up trees — to protect the native forest and slopes from erosion.

Intrepid Journeys - India (Pio Terei)

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

On a two week journey through India, Pio Terei discovers that if you want to relax, you should probably visit another country entirely. From Delhi to the deserts of Rajasthan, this full-length episode sees him trying every mode of transport — including tuk tuk, camel, elephant, motorcycle and train.  Along the way he floats up the sacred Ganges River, visits the Taj Mahal, buys a Pashmina shawl for his wife, and eats a meal cooked in a dung oven, traditional-Rajasthani style. He also greets a great many locals, and remains upbeat despite the challenges of travelling in a very different culture. 

Beyond the Roaring Forties

Short Film, 1986 (Full Length)

This documentary heads to the Southern Ocean to explore New Zealand’s subantarctic islands. The Antipodes, Bounty, Snares, Campbell and Auckland Island groups are remote outposts between Aotearoa and Antarctica, home to vital breeding grounds for millions of seabirds and marine mammals – from penguins to sea lions and albatrosses – plus unique plants like giant tree daisies. Director Conon Fraser also looks at human efforts to live there from whaling depots, to the short-lived Hardwick Settlement. The hour-long NFU film is narrated by Ray Henwood (TV's Gliding On).

A Letter to the Teacher

Short Film, 1957 (Full Length)

Pioneering woman director Kathleen O’Brien looks at NZ Correspondence School education in this 25-minute National Film Unit short. Lessons are sent from the school’s Wellington base to far-flung outposts, for farm kids and sick kids, prisoners and immigrants, from Nuie to Northland. Letters, radio and an annual ‘residential college’ at Massey connect students and teachers. In a newspaper report of the time, O’Brien remembering being stranded at Cape Brett lighthouse “for four days without a toothbrush and wearing only the clothes she stood up in”.

Intrepid Journeys - Kenya (Peter Elliott)

Television, 2003 (Excerpts)

"I've never really travelled much, let alone somewhere as challenging as Kenya." Actor and paraglider Peter Elliott lands in Nairobi, and is overwhelmed after meeting inhabitants of a massive slum on the edge of the city. Then he sets off on safari across Kenya, visiting an orphanage for young elephants, camping near crocodile-infested rivers, and spying all kinds of wildlife, all the while dealing with an unfortunate run of the runs. Elliott also gets to meet the inhabitants of a Maasai village. He feels better for the whole experience.   

The Last Laugh

Television, 2002 (Full Length)

This Wayne Leonard documentary from 2002 goes on a journey to explore what defines Māori humour. The tu meke tiki tour travels from marae kitchens to TV screens, from original trickster Maui to cheeky kids, from the classic entertainers (including Prince Tui Teka tipping off an elephant) through to Billy T James, arguably the king of Māori comedy. Archive footage is complemented by interviews with well-known and everyday Kiwis, and contemporary comedians (Mike King, Pio Terei). Winston Peters and Tame Iti discuss humour as a political tool.