'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
This Simmonds Brothers short zips through five generations of their family history, from Croatia to the Kapiti Coast, plus a shipwreck near Auckland. Described as a 'documation', the voices of yarning family members are married to their cartoon likenesses, to comic and ultimately moving effect. The film opens with Mariano and Elizabeth Vella's great great granddaughter and moves to a dramatic re-enactment of the Dalmatian settlers' so-called "very nice honeymoon" on the steamer SS Wairarapa, when it was wrecked off Great Barrier Island in 1894 (131 people died).
This turn of the century comedy series is a satirical look at colonial life through the eyes of Māori chief Te Tutu (Pio Terei). In this third episode, Te Tutu interrogates efforts by the settlers to mine for gold, and has designs on Vole's stove. Objects of ridicule include Pākehā and Māori cuisine; settler lust for “a useless, worthless, dangerous, coloured stone”; and patronising colonialism: “what’s the story with those beads and blankets? Haven’t they got any cash?” Meanwhile hangi pits are causing a spate of injuries. Michael Saccente has a guest role as an American miner.
The final episode of the first season of this colonial comedy tackles the Treaty, as settler Henry Vole argues that his land (purchased off a bloke he met at a bar in Tauranga) is fairly his. The pros and cons of a treaty are debated: “where all Māori may benefit from the administration that gave us the 18 hour working day for children”. Te Tutu counters with a Martin Luther King dream: “where the English are not marginalised in Aotearoa simply because they are a minority … where the English language won’t be lost because we’ll have Pākehā language nests …”
This booster's gem was produced by the NFU to mark Canterbury's centennial. The original Canterbury crusaders' dream of a model England colony is shown in settler life re-enactments. The importance of meat and wheat to the region's prosperity is extolled and a progressive narrative — "in one brief century they've turned the wilderness into fertile farms and built their red-roofed homes" — underpins contemporary scenes (cricket, church) and much bucolic (plains, alps) scenery. Trivia: Peter Jackson used an excerpt from the film to open Heavenly Creatures.
An elegiac profile of artist Eric Lee-Johnson, by Maurice Shadbolt, is the high point of this NFU magazine film. Johnson gave up a lucrative commercial career to pursue his vision of a New Zealand art moving beyond European tradition; and he is observed chronicling abandoned homesteads and churches, built in remote reaches of Northland's Hokianga harbour by early Pākehā settlers. There's light relief in coverage of a chimpanzees' tea party at Wellington Zoo, while a suitably breathless piece looks at a new industry manufacturing fibreglass boats.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
Pictorial Parade was a newsreel series made by the National Film Unit. The trio of items in this 1956 entry starts with 'Salute to Sālote,' in which the Queen of Tonga admires the territorial army recruits at Papakura military camp. In 'What is Dutch for Easter?', Dutch settlers hide painted Easter Eggs for the children of Roseneath school in Wellington. Finally 'The Life of Opo' shows priceless footage of Opononi's world-famous dolphin Opo, and her Marlborough Sounds cousin Pelorus Jack. Shots of 'gay' Opo tossing bottles and frolicking with swimmers are set to a jaunty ditty.
In the tradition of Billy T's 'first encounter' skits, this series used satire to examine pre-Treaty of Waitangi relations between tangata whenua and Pākehā settlers. The topic of this fifth episode is health. After Te Tutu (Pio Terei) wakes with a bad back, his daughter Hine Toa (Rachel House) suggests trying out some alternative medicine: Pākehā bedding. Newly arrived Nurse Veruca (a cameo from Susan Brady) clashes with comical tohunga Tu Meke (William Davis) and stirs up symptoms in Henry Vole. Terei has commented that the show's take-no-prisoners humour was ahead of its time.
This topic of the sixth episode of this Māori/Pākehā satire is 'war'. Irish Colonel North (played by veteran actor Ian Mune) and his British Army soldiers arrive, on their way north to fight Hōne Heke — provoking chief Te Tutu (Pio Terei) and Ngāti Pati into action. Te Tutu’s warmongering with the settlers includes mooning, flagpole-felling and insulting Mr Vole's long-suffering wife (Emma Lange). When the signals aren’t picked up, a stolen rooster gets things moving. A fierce haka is answered by a traditional English song: 'Old Macdonald had a farm'.