In 1973 Alister Barry joined the crew of a protest boat (The Fri) to Mururoa Atoll, where the French Government were testing nuclear weapons. Barry records the assembly of the crew, the long journey from Northland, and their reception in the test zone; when The Fri was boarded and impounded by French military he had to hide his camera in a barrel of oranges. The Fri was a key part of activism that was formative for environmental group Greenpeace, and anti-nuclear sentiment in NZ. Barry's debut film screened primetime on NZ TV and gained international attention.
In this short Gallery interview — broadcast in June 1973 — Peace Media representative (and future TVNZ news boss) Bill Ralston talks about dwindling supplies for two private vessels that had left Aotearoa, to protest upcoming French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Ralston accuses Prime Minister Norman Kirk of being “a little bit heartless” for not assisting. Actually Kirk was realising plans for the HMNZS Otago to join the vigil. Protest yacht Fri was later stormed by French commandos, and the protests made world news. French nuclear testing in the Pacific finally ceased in 1996.
Alister Barry is the filmmaker behind a series of provocative and politically charged documentaries, most of them self-funded. His first documentary Mururoa 1973 tackled nuclear testing, and saw him on a boat headed into the middle of a bomb test zone. Over the next four decades Barry has continued to make significant political documentaries including Someone Else’s Country, The Hollow Men, Wildcat and Hot Air.
In July 1985 French government agents bombed Greenpeace vessel The Rainbow Warrior while it was moored at an Auckland wharf. The boat was set to protest French nuclear testing at Mururoa; photographer Fernando Pereira was killed. This TVNZ documentary, which screened in April 1986, explores the international incident and its fallout. This excerpt, featuring dramatic reconstructions, covers the arrival of the spies in New Zealand and their movements up to and after the bombing. Witnesses and key figures, such as Prime Minister David Lange, are interviewed.
Pita Turei's wide-ranging documentary explores the history of nuclear testing in the Pacific — and its relationship with French colonialism in Tahiti (which locals claim has made them strangers or "Hotu Painu" in their own land). There is compelling testimony of serious health effects from previous tests; and Turei's cameras follow a Greenpeace protest flotilla to Moruroa as the French keep watch. Interwoven throughout is the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and its aftermath, as DGSE agents are tried and the ship finds a final resting place at Matauri Bay.
New Zealand politics was a gentler art in the pre-Muldoon early 1970s, when superstar English TV interviewer David Frost made the first of two series downunder. Here he talks to Prime Minister Norman Kirk, and opposition leader Jack Marshall. Kirk is assured and statesmanlike (an act that proves hard for Marshall to follow) as he discusses topics ranging from supporting beneficiaries, to opposing French nuclear testing. ‘Big Norm’ purposefully talks about being in the job for another 25 years. Tragically, he died in office 13 months later.
Blackmail, lies and secrecy feature heavily in this TV3 documentary, which follows the teenage daughter of the photographer killed in the 1985 bombing of Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior. Marelle Pereira was just eight when her father Fernando died after French Secret Service agents set off two bombs in Auckland. The boat was set to protest nuclear testing in French Polynesia. Now 18, Pereira and her mum travel to French Polynesia, France and Aotearoa to ask why the French carried out the attack. Pereira interviews Rainbow Warrior crew and former Kiwi PM David Lange.
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.
This documentary travels to nine Pacific nations, including New Zealand, to chronicle the long struggle to create a regional nuclear arms free zone. Interviews with politicians, activists, radiation victims and American and French admirals are counterpointed. When hopes of a treaty are dashed at a South Pacific Forum meet, it is pointed out that the David Lange-trumpeted independence of NZ's nuclear-free policy is evidently "not for export". Local music scores the doco, including Australia's Midnight Oil, whose lead singer (future MP Peter Garrett) is interviewed.
Pacific 3-2-1-Zero is a record of a performance of the eponymous work by renowned percussion group From Scratch. The work was devised in 1981 as a protest against nuclear testing and waste dumping in the Pacific. Ring-leader Phil Dadson, his players and their instruments — from whirling PVC pipes to biscuit tin lids — are arranged in the shape of the peace symbol. From Scratch's rhythms are cut with footage and facts of nuclear testing by director Gregor Nicholas to make for a resonant statement. The film won the Grand Prix at Midem’s 1994 Visual Music Awards.