Expat Kiwi Rewi Alley became one of the best known foreigners in 20th Century China and advocate for the Communist Revolution. When China was under siege from Japan in the late 1930s, Alley instigated an industrial co-op movement he termed ‘gung ho' (work together). Its success led to the phrase entering the global idiom. For this documentary a Geoff Steven-led crew travelled 15,000km in China in 1979, filming Alley as he gave his account of an engrossing, complex life story. Co-writer Geoff Chapple later wrote a biography of Alley.
Filmed on a 15,000 km journey through China in 1979, this documentary captures a country in transition: one where billboards are emerging on the streets of Shanghai, while commune workers still toil in the countryside. The film compiles images of people and landscape to observe China's then-recent emergence from the repressive Cultural Revolution; including memories from long-term resident, Kiwi Rewi Alley. Named after a description by Alley of China, it was made alongside companion documentary: Gung Ho: Rewi Alley of China.
With the Second World War over, Kiwis stood with their more powerful allies in the occupation of Japan. But with Britain increasingly preoccupied with its home affairs and Europe, New Zealand began to set its own foreign policy agenda. In this episode of The Years Back presenter Bernard Kearns explains how New Zealand turned to its own backyard to create new export markets. That also meant military involvement in Korea and Malaya and a sometimes fumbling attempt at being a colonial power in the Pacific.
Jack Body, OMNZ, composed for everything from gamelan orchestras to the Kronos Quartet, and was a leading figure in awakening local interest in Asian and Pacific music. His soundtrack work ranged across children’s tales, te reo dramas and nature films. His collaborations with director Vincent Ward include classic film Vigil, and (with John Gibson), 2008’s Rain of the Children. Body passed away on 10 May 2015.
Geoff Steven's career spans documentary, experimental film and photography. In 1978, he directed acclaimed feature Skin Deep, the first major investment by the newly established NZ Film Commission. Steven followed it with Strata and a long run of documentaries, before time as a TV executive at both TV3 and TVNZ. He now heads the Our Place World Heritage Project.
Journalist/writer Geoff Chapple won an NZ Film Award for Vincent Ward's acclaimed fantasy The Navigator. Chapple co-wrote the script, and also co-authored Ward's book Edge of the Earth. Chapple's other books include Rewi Alley of China, written after working with Alley on docos Gung Ho and The Humble Force. Chapple is an ex member of percussion ensemble From Scratch, and creator of national walking trail Te Araroa.
Editor Annie Collins worked on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and won awards for her editing work on Scarfies and Out of the Blue. But she is also known for an extensive resume of documentaries, having edited such landmark productions as Patu! and The Neglected Miracle.
Leon Narbey is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and lauded cinematographers. His talents have contributed to roughly 20 features, including Whale Rider, Desperate Remedies, The Price of Milk and No.2. Narbey's work as a director includes movies The Footstep Man and Illustrious Energy, an acclaimed drama about Chinese goldminers.
Alun Falconer started his film career at the National Film Unit in 1946. Early in 1948 he and cameraman Roger Mirams left the NFU and founded the Pacific Film Unit. A year later he went to China where he worked as a journalist and was an eyewitness to the fall of Shanghai. He left in 1950 for London where he returned to film production and later made his name as a television script writer.
Roger Mirams helped launch legendary independent company Pacific Films in 1948, and went on to co-direct Broken Barrier in 1952 with John O'Shea — the only Kiwi feature made that decade. In 1957, Mirams set up a Pacific Films branch in Melbourne. Over the next five decades he won a reputation in Australia for his children's TV shows. Mirams was still working in his 80s; he passed away in February 2004.