Michael Heath's imagination has spawned movies bursting with murder and mayhem, as well as lyrical tales of childhood and unheralded artists. Heath's work ranges widely – some of his films are lyrical, comical and murderous all at the same time. His scripts include two contenders for New Zealand's first horror film (Death Warmed Up and Next of Kin), plus an affectionate adaptation of Ronald Hugh Morrieson classic The Scarecrow, which was the first Kiwi movie invited to the Cannes Film Festival. In recent years Heath has blossomed from writer into director.
Actor Kevin Smith could do it all; from brooding like Brando in a Tennessee Williams play, through Xena, to the gentle romantic lead of Double Booking, and self-parody in Love Mussel. Collected here are selections from a career cut short (he died in a 2002 film-set accident). Plus tributes from James Griffin, Michael Hurst, Geoffrey Dolan and Simon Prast.
Music videos — often they're no more than a promotional tool; sometimes they are works of art. They provide a chart of changing fashions and trends, and offer emerging filmmakers the chance to really show their stuff. The best clips lift the music even higher. So get your groove on for this career-spanning, 'best of' compilation: from mad scientists to metalheads, from Supergroove to The Naked and Famous — almost every Best Music Video winner at New Zealand's local music awards, since Andrew Shaw first took the prize for DD Smash's 'Outlook for Thursday' in 1983.
This 1952 film ventures off the Bay of Plenty coast to New Zealand’s most active volcano: White Island. The National Film Unit production joins a team of DSIR scientists, supposedly the first humans in more than a decade to to view this “fantastic laboratory of nature”. They camp in the ruins of a sulphur mill, where the acidic fumes have disintegrated factory engines. Steam in fumeroles destroys thermometers — “mapping the land brings the party to many a scene like this: a scene from The Inferno”. Elsewhere, gannets nest, defying the inhospitable environment.
Pre-dating Peter Jackson's arrival (Bad Taste) by three years, New Zealand's first horror movie sees Michael Hurst making his movie debut as he fights mutants (including Bruno Lawrence) on Waiheke Island. Hurst's character is out to avenge the mad scientist who forced him to kill his parents. A grand prize-winner at a French fantasy festival (with cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky on the jury), David Blyth's splatterfest marked the first of many horrors funded by the NZ Film Commission. It was also the first local showcase of the smoothly-flowing Steadicam camera.
This animated short is set in "not so distant future" Aotearoa, where a plague has devastated livestock farming. The morbid nursery rhyme, narrated by Geraldine Brophy, tells of a scientist who creates a "different kind of meat from the resources still here". Matasila Freshwater's short was picked for the 'New Zealand’s Best' section of the 2016 NZ International Film Festival, by a team that included director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors). It also screened at Spain's Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, and won Best Animated Short at Sydney festival A Night of Horror.
Mixing three separate strands, On an Unknown Beach is a so-called “‘speculative documentary" about journeys into landscapes of ruin. Sonic artist Bruce Russell explores the ruined Christchurch CBD, scientist Di Tracey captures compelling underwater footage while examining coral damage on the seabed, and poet David Hornblow undergoes hypnotherapy to explore his consciousness and past experiences with addiction. The film was made by Adam Luxton and Summer Agnew, whose 2005 documentary Minginui (2005) focussed on an ex-forestry town in the North Island.
Paul Callaghan (1947 - 2012) was an internationally celebrated scientist, and a passionate advocate for Aotearoa. He was a popular science communicator (including a radio show with Kim Hill), campaigned to make New Zealand “a place where talent wants to live”, and championed the idea of a predator-free New Zealand. Shirley Horrocks' documentary focuses on the field that Callaghan became a world expert in — magnetic resonance — and interviews Callaghan's family, colleagues, students and friends. The film was invited to play at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
This telefeature imagines the build up to, and aftermath, of an Auckland volcanic eruption. The last big one produced Rangitoto, and scientist Clive de Roo (Mark Mitchinson from Siege) is the man who discovers under the mountain rumblings, 600 years later. Citizens are non-plussed until the top pops. Eruption was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group and was one of the last projects completed by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil) before his death in 2011. The Gibson Group had earlier produced 2008 earthquake in Wellington drama Aftershock.
Cartoonist and writer Dylan Horrocks heads to England to trace his family lineage in this documentary, which mixes science and history. Horrocks uses DNA analysis to investigate if he is related to 17th century English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks. In 1639 the scientist was the first person to observe the Transit of Venus. This planetary movement prompted Captain James Cook to travel to the Pacific. Horrocks heads to Tolaga Bay to view the transit in 2012, a special moment as the next one will be in 2117. The 70-minute film is directed by Dylan's stepmother Shirley Horrocks.