Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
This mid '70s ad campaign, made by the National Film Unit for the Tourist and Publicity Department, was aimed at the domestic market and offers nostalgic delights aplenty. 'Nightlife' focused on city bars and clubs, and 'Oldies' showcased options for retirees (scenic bus tours). Another version urged families to ditch the car (amidst the oil crisis) and take public transport to see the country; and in a classic of the genre pop star Craig Scott was a beach pied piper for adoring young Kiwis: "We're in God's own country, we gotta take the tiiiime ...".
This short promo was part of a mid '70s Tourist and Publicity Department campaign touting New Zealand to New Zealanders. It focuses on nightlife to highlight the swinging face of our cities: bars, bands, dancing, floor shows and restaurants. As the jingle says: "Share it, share it, you've got to share it with each other." Delight in fast-cut '70s fashion and styles even if the chop stick, champagne and ciggie-filled affair has a faintly ominous vibe (just what is the bartender slipping in the cocktail?). The film ends with the Orwellian instruction to "go there ... now".
This short documentary about freestyle skiing was directed for the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department by Sam Neill (who would shortly achieve fame as an actor). This was one of several docos directed by Neill while at the National Film Unit; other subjects included the Red Mole theatre troupe and architect Ian Athfield. The skiers put on daring displays of their 'art' in locations including Mount Hutt, Queenstown and Tongariro National Park. 70s snow-styles (and beards) abound. The film was translated into French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish.
He learnt kapa haka as a child. He learnt to smoulder on Shortland Street. He punched a country in the guts with Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison has starred in Māori westerns, adventure romps, and cannibal comedies. In the backgrounder to this special collection, NZ On Screen editor Ian Pryor traces Temuera Morrison's journey from haka to Hollywood.
Government filmmakers the National Film Unit launched Pictorial Parade two years after the demise of Weekly Review. It was another 10-minute magazine programme, but this time monthly, rather than weekly. It was the NFU’s major product for the next 20 years. In 1950 the NFU had been moved from under the wing of the Prime Minister’s Department, to be controlled by the Tourist and Publicity Department. The Pictorial Parade was seen as a move away from the political in government filmmaking, and a return to the promotional role of the early scenic films.
Made for the 75th anniversary of the Tourist and Publicity Department, this National Film Unit short film surveys New Zealand tourism: from shifts in transport and accommodation, to how Aotearoa is marketed. The "romantic outpost of Empire" seen in 1930s promotional films gives way to a more relaxed, even saucy pitch, emphasising an uncrowded, fun destination. Middle-earth is not yet on the horizon; instead Wind in the Willows provides literary inspiration. Directed by Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand), it screened alongside Bugsy Malone and won a Belgian tourist festival award.
Recut from material shot at least five years before, this National Film Unit short appears to have been driven by the Tourist and Publicity Department. Coming in for praise are New Zealand’s primary exports (farm products), road and railways, and social security. In the 50s long distance air links were opening NZ up to the world but international tourism was not a major industry, and NZ was focused firmly on agriculture. People are shown farming, “a little unsmiling” on city streets, and at play (fishing, sailing and skiing). Kids drink milk and Māori are assimilating.
This documentary film tells the story of the Whanganui River. It recounts a Māori myth believing the river is the path carved by a god (Pukeonaki aka Mt Taranaki) in its journey from the volcanic plateau to the west coast. There is beautifully shot footage of Māori paddling a waka under tui-laden matai, and tourists cruising on steamers. In 1950 the NFU had become part of the Department of Tourism and Publicity (after accusations of political bias); and this film reflects the change, with a triumphant narrative of progress underpinning an often-bloody river history.
Brian Latham was behind the camera on some of New Zealand's earliest drama series, including Pukemanu and Section 7. Latham left his native England for Aotearoa in the early 60s. He worked in Wellington for the National Film Unit and the NZ Broadcasting Corporation, then did many more years of television in Auckland. He was also a stills photographer. Latham passed away on 15 June 2018.