More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in World War l. Over 18,000 died; at least 40,000 more were wounded. Campaigns involving Kiwis, from Gallipoli to the Western Front, were identity-forming, and the war's effects on society were deep. The World War l Collection is an evolving onscreen remembrance. Military expert Chris Pugsley writes about the collection here.
This 2015 edition in the Loading Docs series explores the past, present and future of Crystal Palace, a dilapidated but stately theatre on Auckland’s Mt Eden Road that has been drawing the curtains since the 1920s. Co-directed by Karl Sheridan and Robin Gee, who work under the Monster Valley moniker, the documentary canvasses the spilled Jaffas, dances, surf film screenings and local legends of the venue — and is also a plea to bring the ballroom and cinema back to life. In March 2016 Monster Valley answered their own call, and took over management of the theatre.
Despite the misleading numbering, this October 1942 film marked the first of the National Film Unit's long-running Weekly Review series. The NFU had been established a year earlier to promote the war effort via newsreels screened in movie theatres. In a meta first clip, Kiwi soldiers watch an NFU film in a makeshift outdoor cinema. Then war readiness is demonstrated via army exercises — including on Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where “Māori and Pākehā are working together, mounting machine guns for their common defence.” Finally: Red Cross parcels are prepared for NZ prisoners of war.
Half-hour documentary The Reel People of New Zealand visits boutique cinemas, from Te Awamutu’s Regent Theatre to Stewart Island’s Bunkhouse. The changing landscape of movie-watching is revealed through visits to legendary Christchurch video store Alice (which has added a screening venue) to Opunake’s community-owned Everybody’s Theatre and Wanaka’s compact Rubys Cinema. The interviews include cinema and video store managers, tales of getting married in a cinema, and contrasting views on whether the death of cinema is unlikely or inevitable.
Solo is a story about three people on the edge of nowhere, struggling to decide how much of themselves to share with those they care about. Young Australian hitchhiker Judy romances solo Dad Paul, who finds peace flying fire patrol planes above the forest. Paul's precocious son reacts badly to losing pole position to Judy, and takes to the air. Inspired partly by the oft-painful times when we are "more acutely in touch” with our emotions, Tony Williams' romance helped launch the Kiwi movie renaissance. But as he writes in the backgrounder, there was no fun in filming it three times.
Should Clive Sowry ever choose to enter Mastermind, his knowledge of the National Film Unit will give his competitors a definite run for their money. Sowry worked at the government filmmaking organisation for 14 years, including nine as the NFU's archivist. He went on to undertake a programme that saved 100s of local films, and has written often about filmmaking in New Zealand — including for NZ On Screen.
A pioneer of New Zealand film and star of 1940 classic Rewi's Last Stand, Ramai Hayward is credited as Aotearoa’s first Māori filmmaker, camerawoman, and scriptwriter. At the 2005 Wairoa Māori Film Festival she receiv the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Māori filmmaking; the following year Hayward was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. She passed away on 3 July 2014.
Legendary filmmaker Rudall Hayward, MBE, directed seven features over five decades — decades in which the concept of Kiwi movie-making was still an oxymoron, or meant a foreigner was in charge. Inspired by NZ’s cross-cultural history, Hayward remade his own Rewi’s Last Stand in 1940. Later he married Rewi star Ramai Te Miha, launching a filmmaking partnership that lasted until Rudall’s death in May 1974.
Geoffrey Scott, MBE and OBE, oversaw the Government's National Film Unit for over 20 years, until his retirement in 1973. Scott began his film career playing piano over silent movies. During his command of the unit, the organisation won 141 awards.
Ted Coubray was one of Aotearoa's earliest filmmakers to sustain a full-time career. In the 1920s he began filming local events for screenings in town halls around the Manawatū. He went on to shoot a number of feature films, including his own hit Carbine's Heritage. When sound hit the film industry in the late 20s, the inventive Coubray pioneered his own sound on film system, Coubray-Tone. He died on 10 December 1997. Image credit: taken from Geoff Steven documentary Adventures in Māoriland