This vibrant NFU travelogue takes the pulse of NZ's capital after 125 years of Pākehā settlement and finds a "colourful, casual" city that has had to impose itself on the landscape to endure. Highlights include the 90 sec opening flyover, some off-the-wall music choices in the score and vox pops that are well shy of 'coolest little capital' chutzpah. The wind puts on a requisite show but so do the city's 32 miles of beaches, with a Riviera-esque Oriental Bay beaming on a good day. The mower on a rope trick looks dodgy to a more health and safety conscious age.
This 1949 NFU film visits Western Samoa. Director Stanhope Andrews surveys life in the “lotus land of the Pacific”, showing taro and coconut harvest, cooking in umu, and church and fale building, as “the flower-decked girls sing and dance beneath the palms”. The benefits of New Zealand’s then-administration are shown (eg. medical services, education) but the travelogue ignores earlier ignominious acts, such as the quarantine blunder that saw one in five Samoans fall to influenza. The Olemani Aufaipese (choir) provides the score. Samoa won independence in 1962.
Veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes brings his trademark stream of introspection and acerbic wit to the ancient cultures of Yemen in the Middle East. Holmes gets a lot of mileage from the country’s many curiosities: soldiers on patrol holding hands; the high volume manner of daily conversation and the ubiquitous Khat, a chewing plant known for its amphetamine-like effects. This excerpt sees him changing into an outfit that has more in common with the locals, and suddenly feeling much more welcome than before.
Comedian Te Radar is a natural for Intrepid Journeys - his own TV sojourns have already taken him to Palestine and East Timor. In this episode Radar travels through the landlocked African nation of Mali, much of which lies in the Sahara. On his way to the legendary city of Timbuktu he visits a festival in the desert, has a close encounter with a baby scorpion and grooves to the local drumming. Along the way, cameraman Bevan Crothers captures eye-opening imagery of brightly clothed locals and a lime-clad Te Radar, against sunlicked desert sands.
Media satirist Jeremy Wells travels through Libya and coments on what he sees with his trademark impassive delivery. He dresses in traditional male garb, takes in Tripoli's ancient medina, dines in traditional Berber settlements, and journeys through the Jebel Nafusa highlands. On the way Wells rides an angry camel, complains about the lack of women, holds hands with a man, and recounts Colonel Gaddafi trivia, musing with deadpan gormlessness, "he must be nice because nobody seems to have a bad word to say about him."
Musician, DJ and accomplished sailor Andrew Fagan heads to Indonesia with guitar in hand — plus some miniature sail boats. The trip includes an active volcano, a dodgy riverboat, the peaceful vibe of an Islamic festival, and some catchy Fagan tunes. The result is a standout episode, thanks partly to an enthusiastic and straight-talking host: a man who makes the most of each moment, without turning his head away from the realities of poverty, or the after-effects of terrorist bombing. Warning: animal lovers may want to avoid certain scenes.
In Peru, beauty and poverty go hand in hand. Westie comedian Ewen Gilmour begins his Peruvian journey in Lima, the capital - which he describes as a "sprawling, largely chaotic urban mess". Locals offer drugs and warn of muggers, but there are lighter moments when Gilmour entertains an enthusiastic audience in the city's historic centre, despite speaking only un poco Español. Later the former stonemason is impressed by the precision stonework in the ancient hilltop city of Machu Picchu, and visits locals who live on floating islands of reeds, on Lake Titicaca.
This impressionistic, late 1960s survey traces Auckland from volcanic origins to a population of half a million people. Produced by the National Film Unit, it finds a city of "design and disorder" growing steadily but secure in its own skin as its populace basks in the summer sun. A wry, at times bemused, Hugh Macdonald script and an often frenetic, jazzy soundtrack accompany time honoured Queen City images: beaches and yachting, parks and bustling city streets, and an unpredictable climate given to humidity and sudden downpours.
Trainspotter Marcus Lush trades the Raurimu Spiral for Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway where he is served peas in oil. He takes in a vast country wrestling off shackles of communism, where beer drinking on buses on the way to work equates with capitalist freedom. He visits Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok, and inbetween discovers that much of Russia still follows traditional customs: emphasising respect, sharing food, drink and ciggies; and he concludes: "I'd rather be a peasant in Russia than live in a trailer park in Detroit."
Before he went Off the Rails Marcus Lush went off the beaten track to Egypt. He takes on a camel and donkey, drifts down The Nile aboard a felucca, samples the local fast food and deals with a dose of ‘Nile Belly'. Ancient treasures and stunning desert landscapes don't hide a more problematic recent history. But the warmth of the locals - Muslim or Christian - makes Lush a convert. When Lush tries the local Cairo barber he loses some eyelashes ("when in Rome") but nevertheless finds the whole Egypt experience to be an "eye opener."