In this experimental drama shot in 1975, four young idealists escape the city for rural Foxton, and set about living off the land. But an act of violence sends the commune into isolation and extremism. Teasing tense drama from rural settings, the 90 minute tale from maverick National Film Unit director Paul Maunder shines a harsh light on the contradictions of the frontier spirit. Although state television funded it, they found it too edgy to screen; instead Landfall debuted at the 1977 Wellington Film Festival. The cast includes Sam Neill as a Vietnam vet, and Mark ll director John Anderson.
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.
Produced by John Laing and featuring a star-studded cast (Sara Wiseman, Tim Balme, et al), South Pacific Pictures' award-winning 'seachange' series Mercy Peak hit just the right note with its down-home sincerity and quirky-but-complex characters. In this excerpt from the first episode, Doctor Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman) discovers the cheating ways of her partner (a deliciously oily Simon Prast) and decides it's time to get out. On her way to finding her bliss in the tiny town of Bassett she has an inauspicious beginning: a minor collision with the town's iconic pig.
Strange things are going down at the Bailey farm in this deadpan short film. A pile of mysterious crates requires some serious detective work: small-town cop Darryl Kitchen (Roy Snow from Go Girls), ably assisted by best mate Brian and a stash of sandwiches, is up for the challenge. Officer Kitchen's dedication to getting his catch includes a chase that could be used in police recruit videos. Serve and Protect won audience choice awards at both New Zealand's Show Me Shorts Film Festival, and Nevada's High Desert fest — among the 16 festivals it was invited to around the world.
Country and western music legend Tex Morton presents this popular 60s Saturday night music show. The Auckland studio audience is seated on hay bales in a barn-styled set and provide the chorus to the musical numbers. The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, The Country Touch Singers and Square Dancers, Jan Butler, fiddler Colleen Bain, and resident guest singers Kay and Shane perform. Tex himself sings a novelty number about the good ol’ days, and applauds Butler: “Isn’t she a redheaded little spark? I wish we had colour television!” The times they have a changed!
Homeward Bound was TV3’s bid for New Zealand on Air funding for a local soap opera. Set around the lives of the rural Johnson family, 22 episodes were produced for the then-nascent network (the series ultimately lost out to TVNZ’s Shortland Street). Created by Ross Jennings and written by Michael Noonan, it represented a move back to a small town way of life after the Gloss-y urban excesses of the 1980s; it also explored pressures facing country communities following the stock market crash. The cast included Liddy Holloway, Peter Elliott and a young Karl Urban.
Made for television in the late 60s, this documentary pursues four young Māori — Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip — as they transition from school, whānau and rural life to live in the city. The film follows them as they arrive in Wellington and attend a pre-employment course run by The Department of Māori Affairs, which offers accommodation and advice on employment options. Director Arthur Everard later became NZ's Chief Film Censor. A 1991 sequel To Live in the City 24 Years On, travelled across three countries to pick up on the lives of the four, now middle aged.
This animated kids series revolves around Massey Ferguson the tractor and other farm machines, who live near the town of Kumara Cove. The icon of Kiwi farming uses his rural wits to solve farm challenges. The series is narrated by broadcaster Jim Mora (Mucking In) who created it with Brent Chambers. In this episode the arrival of ‘Scrapper’ the scrap metal truck puts the fear up Jen the generator. But it’s revenge of the farm machines, when Jen proves her worth after a power cut.
Jon Neilson and Bob Parker host the 13th annual Young Farmer of the Year final, broadcast live from Trillos nightclub in Auckland in 1981. The show includes pre-recorded items showing the seven finalists on their farms, as well as competing in the "rural activities" part of the contest, which consists of such tests as hanging a gate, changing a tyre, and determining defects in sheep carcasses. The presentation of the "cloak of knowledge" to the winning farmer at the end of the night is delightfully cheesy.
Bruce Morrison's career as a producer, director and writer has brought some memorable New Zealand stories to the screen. He has been involved in a number of arts shows such as Kaleidoscope and Profiles, as well as poetry documentaries The Roaring 40's Tour and The Road to Jerusalem. Morrison directed the feature films Constance, Shaker Run and Queen City Rocker, and was a long-time director on Gary McCormick's iconic Heartland documentary series.