Collection

Kiwi Ingenuity

Curated by NZ On Screen team

'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.

A Very Nice Honeymoon

Short Film, 2006 (Full Length)

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).

The Life and Times of Te Tutu - 3 (Series One, Episode Three)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

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 Life and Times of Te Tutu - 5 (Series One, Episode Five)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

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.

The Life and Times of Te Tutu - 7 (Series One, Episode Seven)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

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 …” 

Canterbury is a Hundred

Short Film, 1950 (Full Length)

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.

The Life and Times of Te Tutu - 4 (Series One, Episode Four)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

Religion is the subject of this fourth episode of the series satirising colonial relations between Māori and Pākehā. Chief Te Tutu (Pio Terei) is disturbed by the bells ringing from the new church being built by settler Henry Vole, and goes to investigate. He finds a tohunga dressed like a tui. Te Tutu’s interpretation of the scripture leads to complications. Meanwhile Mrs Vole (Emma Lange) continues to do all the work while the Pākehā blokes chinwag. John Leigh (Sparky in Outrageous Fortune) guest stars as an Anglican minister under pressure from Vole to spice up his sermons. 

New Country - New People

Short Film, 1978 (Full Length)

This 1978 National Film Unit documentary provides a potted history of settler groups that came to New Zealand from Europe. Archive material and narration covers the colonials. Then visits are paid to the German-descended Eggers, tobacco growers from Moutere, and newly arrived French bakers and Dutch dairy farmers. Aptly for a film directed by actor and future winemaker Sam Neill, the film drops in on an Italian play and the Babich family of Dalmatian winemakers. Neill worked at the NFU in his 20s, around the time of his breakout acting role in Sleeping Dogs (1977). 

Colonial House - First Episode

Television, 2003 (Full Length Episode)

This Touchdown reality series puts a Kiwi family in the shoes of a family of 1852 English immigrants to Canterbury. The challenge for the Huttons is to see if they have the 'pioneer spirit' and can live with colonial clothing, housing and food for 10 weeks. From a gentler, non-competitive era of reality TV, this first episode sees the Owaka family of six (including baby Neil) experience six days of life on a settler ship – seasickness, food rations, restrictive clothing and bedding and chamber pots – while relaying their personal reflections to the camera.

Pictorial Parade No. 55

Short Film, 1956 (Full Length)

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.