Collection

The Billy T James Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Billy Taitoko James is a Kiwi entertainment legend. His iconic ‘bro’ giggle was infectious and his gags universally beloved. This collection celebrates his screen legacy, life and inimitable brand of comedy: from the skits (Te News, Turangi Vice), to the show-stealing cameos (The Tainuia Kid), and the stories behind the yellow towel and black singlet.

Inquiry - Checking Prices, Counting Costs

Television, 1974 (Full Length Episode)

This 70s current affairs show does a cost benefit analysis of Trade Minister Warren Freer’s Maximum Retail Price scheme (MRP), which capped retail prices. Drawn from an era of economic theory poles that was apart from the market deregulation of the 80s, the investigation sets out to poll opinion in supermarket aisles, a grocery in Glenorchy, and factory floors (Faggs coffee, Cadbury chocolate). The checkouts are a battlefield between red tape and free range retail. The early animated sequence by Bob Stenhouse marked an early use of animation in a local TV documentary. 

In a Land of Plenty

Film, 2002 (Full Length)

The tagline runs: "The story of unemployment in New Zealand" and In A Land of Plenty is an exploration of just that; it takes as its starting point the consensus from The Depression onwards that Godzone economic policy should focus on achieving full employment, and explores how this was radically shifted by the 1984 Labour government. Director Alister Barry's perspective is clear, as he trains a humanist lens on ‘Rogernomics' to argue for the policy's negative effects on society, "as a new poverty-stricken underclass developed".

Someone Else's Country

Film, 1996 (Full Length)

Someone Else’s Country looks critically at the radical economic changes implemented by the 1984 Labour Government - where privatisation of state assets was part of a wider agenda that sought to remake New Zealand as a model free market state. The trickle-down ‘Rogernomics’ rhetoric warned of no gain without pain, and here the theory is counterpointed by the social effects (redundant workers, Post Office closures). Made by Alister Barry in 1996 when the effects were raw, the film draws extensively on archive footage and interviews with key “witnesses to history”.

Revolution - 1, Fortress New Zealand

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ's radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon's reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform. Revolution won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.

Bob Jones - Doing God's Work?

Television, 1984 (Full Length)

This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and talking up his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The outspoken advocate for free market liberalisation drew crowds at halls across New Zealand. The Rocky theme music shamelessly plays as boxing fan Jones approaches the rostrum. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote. The documentary includes scenes of the libertarian attempting to dictate how television media filmed him.

Tagata Pasifika - First Episode

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

Presented by Niuean broadcaster Foufou Susana Hukui, this first episode of the long-running Pasifika current affairs series includes items on Cook Islands dance, the “Otara flea market”, and NZ work schemes for islanders. Samoan Maligi Elvie presents South Pacific news, while Vainetutai Temaeva-Nicholls covers the Cook Islands. Debuting on 4 April 1987, the TVNZ series broke ground as the first NZ television show to focus on PI stories (earlier show See Here was aimed at both Māori and Pasifika audiences). Researcher Iulia Leilua went on to report for Native Affairs

The New Zealanders

Short Film, 1978 (Full Length)

This 1978 National Film Unit documentary chronicles the daily lives of New Zealanders in various places: factory, beach, hospital, oil rig, country town, sheep farm, market garden, Auckland produce market, art gallery and primary school. Narration-free, the film features montages of stills by photographer Ans Westra. The impression is of New Zealand as a busy nation of makers and growers, alongside singing ‘Oma Rapiti’ at the bach and visiting the art gallery. Terry towelling, walk shorts, and denim shirts are date stamps. The script is by onetime Variety film reviewer Mike Nicolaidi.

Series

Revolution

Television, 1996

Four-part series Revolution mapped sweeping social and economic change in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. Described as a “journalist's assembly” by its makers, it collected together interviews with the major players and archive footage. Producer Marcia Russell: “We wanted to make Revolution because we believed that unless we re-run and re-examine our recent history we are in constant danger of forgetting, and forgetting can render us passive about the present and slaves of the future.” It won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.

Impressions of New Zealand

Short Film, 1985 (Full Length)

This 1985 New Zealand tourism promo showcases Aotearoa society and industry. As the title suggests, the NFU-made film offers an impressionistic take on the subject. Bookended by a dawn and dusk chorus, the narration-free survey cuts between primary products (milk, logs, wool etc) and their manufacturing processes, and then shows people at work and play — from futures traders to pounamu carvers, contemporary dancers to cricketers. Date stamps of the era include a mass aerobics class, hydroslide action, and saxophone and guitar solos on the soundtrack.