Documentary She Shears profiles five women who blow away stereotypes and sexism in the traditionally male world of sheep shearing. Two are legends of the sport: Emily Welch and Jills Angus Burney (also a High Court barrister). The other three are hoping to make their mark with the blades at the sport's pinnacle: Masterton’s Golden Shears. The event has no separate gender categories. She Shears was directed by first-timer Jack Nicol, and produced by Breaker Upperers producers Ainsley Gardiner and Georgina Conder. It debuted at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
In the 1940s and 50s sheep shearers Godfrey and Ivan Bowen developed the 'Bowen Technique', an innovative method involving rhythmical sweeps of the handpiece. The Guardian described Godrey as having arms that “flow with the grace of a Nureyev shaping up to an arabesque”. Here he runs through the 'blows' (strokes) designed to achieve "maximum speed, quality work with a minimum of physical effort". Shearing Technique was originally produced in 1956; this shorter cut screened in New Zealand theatres in 1958 with English coming of age film High Tide at Noon.
After studying contemporary Māori art, Jane Shearer worked behind the scenes in film, and as an award-winning advertising copywriter. Nature's Way - her acclaimed directorial debut - was invited to 24 festivals, including Cannes. It won best short at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards. Shearer and partner Steve Ayson developed the film together, as they did Shearer's award-nominated follow-up short, Bird.
'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.
Champion shearer Godfrey Bowen returns to Akers station at Opiki, Manawatu where he set a world record in 1953 by shearing 456 sheep in nine hours (shown in archive footage). He shows off his biceps (not far from the 23 inches they used to be) and explains the Bowen Technique which revolutionised shearing by reducing the number of blows required to remove a fleece. Bowen talks about how his life changed (travelling the world and an MBE) and there's footage of Agrodome with its trained sheep, which he opened in Rotorua, with his brother Ivan.
This excerpt from a 1986 episode of NZ TV’s longest running show comes from the heady pre-crash mid-80s when NZ farming was getting off the sheep’s back and diversifying to stay profitable in changing times. Here Robert Hall is stocking the “hard hill country” of a farm near Taumaranui with goats. Rather than hunting goats as pests, the young industry — fuelled by “large amounts of city money” — is attempting to farm them for their cashmere wool. It offers new opportunities for women in farming, but teething problems include low yields from feral animals.
Part One looks at lesbian relationships - how different are they? A light-hearted romp through subjects such as butch and femme, monogamy, lesbian bed death, and raising children. Two gay farmers feature next, and talk about farming in the Waikato, and their jobs as horse trainer and shearer. Part Three takes us inside Mt Eden Prison where we meet a lesbian prison officer. She talks about working in this tough, testosterone-filled environment and reveals how observing men living in these conditions has made her a more compassionate person.
"Space — big hills, snow-capped, blue skies ... that's the Maniototo, Central Otago." So says local poet Ross McMillan, describing the landscape that inspires much of his work. The Maniototo plain has also inspired writing from James K Baxter, Janet Frame, and Gary McCormick, the host of this full-length Heartland episode. McCormick finds a strong sense of community amidst the poetry of isolation: whether in the shearing shed, the sports field or the ice-skating rink. He also talks to local high-schoolers, some resigned to having to leave the area to find work.
This 1978 National Film Unit documentary chronicles the daily lives of New Zealanders in various places: factory, beach, hospital, oil rig, country town, sheep farm, market garden, Auckland produce market, art gallery and primary school. Narration-free, the film features montages of stills by photographer Ans Westra. The impression is of New Zealand as a busy nation of makers and growers, alongside singing ‘Oma Rapiti’ at the bach and visiting the art gallery. Terry towelling, walk shorts, and denim shirts are date stamps. The script is by onetime Variety film reviewer Mike Nicolaidi.
This thoughtful but humorous documentary offers a wry tribute to sheep in New Zealand. Interviews with Chris Knox, Dog's Show presenter John Gordon, Dick Frizzell and Michael Parekowhai (among others) pull the wool away from our collective eyes, and examine Aotearoa's much ridiculed relationship with sheep. Artists' images, souvenirs, pets, and shows for tourists all feature, as do songs and plays. The documentary also examines the foundational role of sheep in the country's economy. This was one of the first productions from company Greenstone Pictures.