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.

Reluctant Revolutionary

Television, 2004 (Full Length)

Reluctant Revolutionary mines a wealth of then new interviews to trace David Lange's rise from pudgy doctor's son to lawyer, to Prime Minister leading the country through radical change. Along the way, writer/director Tom Scott asks how a man as gifted as Lange allowed his government to collapse around him after only five years in office. The film includes rare input from National leader Jim McLay (who praises Lange's wit at university), Rogernomics architect Roger Douglas, and the first television interview with Lange's second wife Margaret Pope.

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 - 3, The Great Divide

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

Four-part series Revolution examined sweeping changes in New Zealand society that began in the 1980s. This third episode looks at the lurch of the Kiwi stock market from boom to bust in 1987, and the growing philosophical divide between the “head boys”: PM David Lange and finance minister Roger 'Rogernomics' Douglas. Within two months of the October 1987 stock market crash, $21 billion was lost from the value of NZ shares. Lange and Douglas give accounts of how their differing views on steering the NZ economy eventually resulted in both their resignations.

Frontline - Five Days in July

Television, 1994 (Full Length Episode)

Ten years on from the tumultuous 1984 General Election, this award-winning TVNZ current affairs doco examines the financial and constitutional crisis that resulted from Robert Muldoon’s initial refusal to yield power. Reporter Richard Harman, who conducted pivotal interviews at the time, talks to key players to piece together the events of five remarkable days. They also saw the opening salvoes between David Lange and US Secretary of State George Shultz over nuclear ship visits, and foreshadowed Roger Douglas’ controversial remaking of the NZ economy. 

Sale of a Nation

Television, 1991 (Full Length)

As part of the radical 80s neoliberal reform of the public and corporate sector in New Zealand, many government-run assets were turned into state owned enterprises; some were sold off to foreign buyers. Screening on TV3, this 1991 film, written by Metro columnist Bruce Jesson, examines the controversial programme by asking “who owns this country and who controls it?”. Those answering range from businesspeople to politicians, academics, journalists, vox pops and critics of the ‘cashing-in’, from the Hamilton Jet family to UK environmentalist Teddy Goldsmith.

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.

Revolution - 4, The New Country

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

Four-part series Revolution examined radical changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 1990s. This final episode sums things up, after examining "the second wave" of neoliberal reform when National took power in 1990, shortly after Telecom was sold to American interests. Incoming finance minister Ruth "mother of all budgets" Richardson oversaw a reduction of welfare payments, a shake-up of the health system, and a curbing of union powers. Richardson: "in a human sense I understood that [community outrage], but that wasn't going to deflect me".

Revolution - 2, The Grand Illusion

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

Award-winning series Revolution examined sweeping changes in 1980s New Zealand society. This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.