When Frank Sanft’s older brother was killed early in World War ll, it only intensified Frank’s determination to serve. Joining the Royal Navy, he was eventually assigned to Operation PLUTO, which involved laying an undersea fuel pipeline between the UK and Cherbourg (vital in keeping Allied vehicles moving, directly after the invasion of France). Frank laughs now at a close call with a sniper ashore in France. Serving in the Pacific, he was there after Singapore’s notorious Changi PoW camp was liberated. In 2017 Sanft was awarded a prestigious French Legion of Honour.
From those who joined up in World War ll to the relative youngsters who saw action in Vietnam, this selection of clips is collected from the fourth series of interviews with ex-servicemen sharing their memories of service. The stories of these men and women range from the comical to the horrific. Age has taken its toll on their bodies but the memories remain sharp. Made by director David Blyth (Our Oldest Soldier) and Hibiscus Coast Community RSA Museum curator Patricia Stroud, the interviews are a valuable record of WWll and conflict in South East Asia.
Motor racing ace Scott Dixon is the subject of this episode from a series about notable New Zealanders. At 26, he is already an IndyCar champion but he’s subbing in here to help his team win a gruelling nine hour race in the heat at Salt Lake City and clinch a lower graded championship. The cameras are given plenty of trackside access to a relaxed and apparently unflappable Dixon who wears his 'Iceman' nickname with ease. While a mid-race excursion off the track fails to threaten his composure, his mother doesn’t fare quite so well from her weekend.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
Te Ao Māori meets 70s kung fu movies in this Māori TV series, as a modern guide travels back to pre-Pākehā times to introduce "the greatest warriors of the past". Kairākau uses modern filmmaking tools (including roving camerawork, and the kinetic style of action films like 300) to explore ancestral history and showcase Māori martial arts. This first episode tells of Tunohopu’s utu, after an ambush by a Tūwharetoa war party sees the capture of his son and brother. Kairākau was created by Rangi Rangitukunoa. Kapa haka expert Wetini Mitai-Ngātai choreographs the martial arts.
Eleven-year-old Utah gets dumped with his estranged dad for the day in this 2011 short film. Dad is the sole employee at a Northland rubbish dump. Utah is embarrassed by his Dad’s job and recycled gifts, but thanks to a trash tour and reversing lessons, gets to know him better. One of the first products of the NZ Film Commission’s Fresh Shorts scheme, the film won director Hamish Bennett a NZ Writers Guild award for Best Short Film Script. The Dump was the first short from teacher Bennett and actor/producer Orlando Stewart; they followed with 2014 award-winner Ross and Beth.
In his early career, feature film director Roger Donaldson put himself in risky positions while filming adventure documentaries, including The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary. With his friend Ian Mune, he created Winners & Losers, a landmark series of dramas based on stories by New Zealand writers, which in turn inspired the pair to adapt CK Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream into feature film Sleeping Dogs. The major turning point in Donaldson’s career was his feature Smash Palace, which screened at Cannes and earned rave reviews. Since Smash Palace, Donaldson has thrived in Hollywood, working with notable actors including Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan. He returned to New Zealand to make the Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
Mark Albiston has won awards at festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Salt Lake City, thanks to short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man (which he directed with Louis Sutherland). After time in the United Kingdom, Albiston returned home to launch Sticky Pictures, where he won gongs for arts shows The Living Room and The Gravy. Alibston and Sutherland's 2013 movie Shopping won further awards and acclaim.
Producer Nik Beachman worked on a run of Cannes Film Festival successes in the mid 2000s, as executive producer of short films Fog, Run and Nature's Way (Run was runner-up in 2007 for Cannes' top prize for shorts, the Palme d'Or). Beachman began his screen career as an Assistant Director. In 2000 he produced three short films in a single year. On the feature front, he was part of the producing team on Lee Tamahori's Mahana and 2018's Vermillion. Beachman's production company Thick as Thieves has worked on many high-profile commercials, including a Utah-shot Hallensteins ad featuring motorcyclists in suits.