This morbidly funny short, made by students of Auckland's Media Design School, depicts the demise of 26 alphabetical and animated animals at the hands of nature’s greatest enemy — the human. Framed as a father possum (Phil Greeves) reading his children their favourite bedtime story, the alliterative animal deaths are undercut with cheerful giggling from the two young possums. The film won acclaim at festivals worldwide —screening at South by Southwest in 2016, and taking out Best Animated film in the Comic-Con Film Festival later that year.
Actor Rawiri Paratene was 16 years old when he joined Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa (Young Warriors) in the early 1970s. "Those years helped shape the rest of my life," says Paratene in this 2012 Māori TV documentary, directed by Kim Webby. The programme is richly woven with news archive from the 1970s, showing protests about land rights and the Treaty of Waitangi, and a campaign for te reo to be taught in schools. Several ex Ngā Tamatoa members — including Hone Harawira, Tame Iti and Larry Parr— are interviewed by Paratene, who also presents the documentary.
This was one of two short promos that screened in cinemas to celebrate 100 years of New Zealand film. A stop motion plasticine figure morphs from one classic Kiwi film moment to another. Director Greg Page starts with National Film Unit newsreels, before jumping to the renaissance of Kiwi film that began in the late 1970s. Included are Goodbye Pork Pie, An Angel at My Table and Braindead. The promos (John O'Shea directed the other) were funded by the NZ Film Commission with support from Kodak, the Film Unit and the Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision).
Peter Jackson's love affair with moviemaking and special effects was ignited by seeing the original King Kong (1933) as a child. Jackson's Kiwi-shot remake takes one of cinema's most iconic monster movies, retains the 30s setting and iconic New York finale, and toughens up the "beauty" (Naomi Watts). The film also transforms the male (non-ape) lead from lunkhead to sensitive playwright (Adrien Brody). Exhilarating, Oscar-winning CGI brings the great ape to life, alongside rampaging dinosaurs, and oversized wētā inexplicably absent from the maligned 1976 remake.
Heart of the Stag showed that director Michael Firth could handle actors as well as skis (his first film, ski documentary Off the Edge, was Oscar-nominated). Bruno Lawrence stars as a man working for a King Country farmer (Terence Cooper), who romances the farmer's adult daughter (Mary Regan) and starts wondering about the strained family dynamic. A rare drama dealing with incest, Heart of the Stag was praised by The LA Times as "electrifyingly good". The NZ Herald said it handled a delicate subject without compromise. Metro voted it the best Kiwi film of 1984.
Made to tie in with director Joe Hitchcock’s feature debut Penny Black, Lapwing is a quirky homage to the camp superheroes of yesteryear, with costumes and a villain that would make Adam West's Batman feel right at home. When Lapwing (Sash Nixon) takes on the evil Dr Curem and finds himself outmatched, he needs the help of the aerially talented Mousegirl to conquer. Full of more mixed metaphors than you can shake to the brim, plus plenty of intentionally lo-fi special effects, the comic short features two heroes saving the day by biting the hand they're dealt.
This headline-grabbing 1979 documentary examines inequality via interviews with an unemployed student, a young widow and a Porirua family of eight; plus visits to a Fijian village and a Hong Kong housing estate. The film's arguments that business and government monopolies had caused poverty in “egalitarian New Zealand”, and that NZ trade practices had added to it elsewhere, displeased Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. State television refused to screen the Greg Stitt-directed documentary; CORSO, the charity who commissioned it, was removed from the government’s funding list.
Rainbow-coloured goats and a herd of children on horseback feature in this 1965 Australian movie. Expat Kiwi producer Roger Mirams called on a stable of actors from his TV work for this part-musical romp, about a group of youngsters who discover a way to change the colour of animal wool. The cast includes Grease's Olivia Newton-John (in her screen debut) and Howard Morrison (as a shearer who teaches the kids a Māori stick game). After co-founding Kiwi production company Pacific Films, Mirams had left Aotearoa in 1957 to launch a short-lived Australian arm of Pacific.
In the early 80s the New Zealand ski industry was burgeoning. This 1983 National Film Unit production promotes the Southern Alps as a ski tourism destination — “the most exciting alpine area south of the equator”. The promo accentuates southern difference (“no trees to get in your way”), as the film tours from Ben Ohau and Tasman Glacier descents, to offseason international downhill racers at Mt Hutt, and après ski attractions. The skiing is paired with orchestral music, a classical-sport combo that director Arthur Everard also memorably used in rugby film Score.
This fictionalised account of pioneering 19th century photographers the Burton brothers is set partly in Dunedin during the closing stages of the New Zealand Wars. William and Alfred take contrasting approaches to representing their subjects — and are treated accordingly by the authorities, who are attempting to attract new settlers while brutally suppressing Māori. Produced by veteran John O'Shea (who co-wrote with playwright Robert Lord), the tale of art, commerce and colonisation was largely well received as a thoughtful essay at revisionist history.