It's the 1870s, and Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace) is fed up by brutal land grabs. He leads a bloody rebellion against the colonial Government, provoking threatened frontiersmen, disgruntled natives, lusty wahine, bible-bashing priests, and kupapa alike to consider the nature of ‘utu’ (retribution). Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael raved about Geoff Murphy’s ambitious follow up to Goodbye Pork Pie: “[He] has an instinct for popular entertainment. He has a deracinated kind of hip lyricism. And they fuse quite miraculously in this epic ...”
In 1983, director Geoff Murphy stormed out of the scrub of the nascent Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great New Zealand colonial epic. Set during the New Zealand Wars, this tale of a Māori leader (Anzac Wallace) and his bloody path to redress 'imbalance' became the second local film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and the second biggest local hit to that date (after Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie). A producer-driven recut was later shown in the United States. This 2013 redux offers Utu “enhanced and restored”.
A colonial widow, recently arrived in New Zealand from England, answers an advertisement from a stoic settler for a wife. They agree to an arrangement. Later Mrs Brown forms an attachment to their Māori servant girl Atawhai, and slowly learns the secret behind her presence. Written by playwright April Phillips (who also plays Mrs Brown) this short film was directed by Christchurch theatre director Craig Hutchison. It was filmed at Wellington's Nairn Street Cottage. ‘Utu Pihikete’ was a derogatory term for half-caste children meaning “paid for in biscuits”.
This 2 June 1982 Close Up edition looks at the journey of the merry pranksters behind Blerta, from Dr Brunowski to making multi-million dollar movies. Geoff Murphy and Bruno Lawrence are interviewed at Waimarama while working on colonial epic Utu. Various members of the Murphy clan are seen involved in the production, reinforcing Murphy’s stab at why Blerta’s players have stuck together up to this point: “A uniformity of philosophy I suppose ... the family thing.” Nb: ‘B-roll’ shots (supplementary cutaway footage) are missing from the archive copy of this show.
For this documentary director Gaylene Preston goes behind the scenes during the making of Geoff Murphy's Utu — his ambitious 'puha western' set during the 1870s land wars. “It’s like football innit? You set up the event and cover it…” says Murphy, as he prepares to shoot a battle scene. In this excerpt, the film’s insistence on cultural respect is conveyed: Merata Mita discusses the beauty of ta moko as star Anzac Wallace is transformed into Te Wheke in the makeup chair, and Martyn Sanderson reflects on having his head remade to be blown off: “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”.
Arm yourself with jaffas and get set for debate: NZ On Screen has gone out on a limb and selected an all-time NZ feature film Top 10. Starring the icons of the Kiwi big screen — Blondini, Ada, Beth, Boy. Whet your appetite for our finest features via choice 10-minute excerpts of the movies. Cook the man some eggs, we're taking this Top 10 to Invercargill!
Actor Bruno Lawrence rounds out a handful (Buck, Billy T, The Topps, Crumpy) of Kiwi icons who have achieved sufficient mana to be recognised by an abbreviated name. His charisma was key to ground-breaking films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Jack Nicholson reputedly had Bruno envy. This collection celebrates his inimitable performances and life.
On a Tuesday evening in April 1968, the ferry Wahine set out from Lyttelton for Wellington. Around 6am the next morning, cyclone-fuelled winds surged in strength as it began to enter Wellington Harbour. At 1.30pm, with the ferry listing heavily to starboard, the call was finally made for 734 passengers and crew to abandon ship. The news coverage and documentaries in this collection explore the Wahine disaster from many angles. Meanwhile Keith Aberdein — one of the TV reporters who was there — explores his memories and regrets over that fateful day on 10 April 1968.
Geoff Murphy was the trumpet player who got Kiwis yelling in the movie aisles. His 1981 road movie Goodbye Pork Pie was the first big hit of the Kiwi film renaissance. He completed an impressive triple punch with the epic Utu, and Bruno Lawrence alone on earth classic The Quiet Earth. From early student heists to Edgar Allen Poe, this collection pays tribute to the late, great, laconic wild man of Kiwi film. Plus read background pieces written in 2013 by cinematographer Alun Bollinger, friend Roger Donaldson, writer Dominic Corry and early partner in crime Derek Morton.
On 7 February 1863, the worst maritime disaster in New Zealand history occurred. British warship HMS Orpheus ran aground on a notorious sandbar at Manukau Heads, with the loss of 189 of the 259 onboard. Directed by John Milligan (Trio at the Top), this documentary was part of a series examining the country’s worst wrecks. Presented by Paul Gittins, it discusses the disaster, its cause, and the consequent investigations. While the British admiralty laid blame on the harbourmaster, local Māori interpreted the wreck as utu, for a breach of tapu by a Pākehā settler the previous day.