For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
Veteran actor Yvonne Lawley (Gloss, Ruby and Rata) landed her first leading role on-screen with this adaptation of a Maurice Duggan short story. Lawley plays Mary May Laverty, a proud but lonely violin teacher who craves "a little human warmth", but fails to connect with people. Awkwardness abounds when she invites the father of one of her students over. The half-hour drama was co-directed by Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson, as part of their Winners & Losers series of short story adaptations. It closely follows Duggan's original story, which was one of his most popular.
Hilary Barry presents this episode from the third series of Great War Stories. The subject is Alexander Aitken, a veteran of World War l who would later become a world-renowned mathematician. Aitken wrote an acclaimed war memoir (Gallipoli to the Somme) which a student reads from at Aitken's old school, Otago Boys' High, on Anzac Day. The story of the violin he kept by his side at Gallipoli is told, and a musical arrangement of Aitken's is played. The short documentaries were made for the centenary of World War l, and screened during TV3’s nightly news.
This 2012 documentary explores the economic and creative potential of one of the icons of New Zealand’s forest: the kauri. Logging and fire have destroyed 95% of Aotearoa’s great kauri forests (this film was made before kauri dieback disease became a major threat). Director Mathurin Molgat poses a solution to the tree’s survival: commercial harvest. He frames the film around Laurie Williams, who makes guitars from the wood. In this excerpt, musician Tiki Taane talks about Tāne Mahuta, and a tree is prepared for felling. The film screened at a number of festivals in the United States.
The 2013 winner of short film contest Tropfest is a caffeinated musical that gently pokes fun at the Kiwi obsession with the black stuff. The customers at the Ozone Bean Store sing the names of their favourite brews in a growing chorus, which is broken by the scandalous arrival of a decaf drinker who does a tango, then by a pair of beverage infidels. New Plymouth-based production company Touching Cloth had previously made a series of 48 Hour film contenst entries as well as performed local theatre. Writer Andy Bassett also composed and performed the tango-tastic score.
Each episode of this TVNZ show takes a well-known Kiwi and invites them to introduce their neighbourhood. In this episode Lukasz Buda (aka Luke Buda from band The Phoenix Foundation) showcases the people who make up the central Wellington suburb of Te Aro. Holocaust survivor Clare Galambos Winter talks about finding a home in Wellington after World War II. Also interviewed are Bari Chin, then running breakdancing group Juvenate, Armenian screenprinting artist George Hajian, and Tee Phee and Keith Cheah, founders of Wellington restaurant Little Penang.
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky visited Aotearoa in 1961 for a series of performances with New Zealand's National Orchestra. This co-production between the NFU and the NZ Broadcasting Service shows Stravinsky at the Wellington Town Hall, guiding the orchestra through the finale of his work, The Firebird Suite. Stravinsky has his own particular style of conducting: no baton, and emphatic hand and arm movements. The applause is rapturous. Stravinsky appears delighted with the occasion; the orchestra (later renamed the NZ Symphony Orchestra) shower him with flowers.
Released in April 1977, 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' became Mark Williams' second number one single. The singer funks it up in bell-bottoms and afro, while circled by cameras on the set of long-running music show Ready to Roll. Abandoning the violins of the Buddy Holly/Paul Anka original in favour of percussion and horns, producer Alan Galbraith's arrangement demonstrates that breakup songs can be catchy indeed. By the end of 1977, Williams and Galbraith had decamped for Australia. Williams would ultimately take over vocals for Dragon.
The Lambeth Walk was a popular 'swing jazz' dance in London in 1939. It included a hand gesture with the Yiddish "Oi!". New Zealand-born filmmaker Len Lye edited together different versions of the music (including Django Reinhardt on guitar and Stephane Grapelli on violin), and combined them with a variety of abstract images painted and scratched directly onto film, without using a camera. The colourful, dynamic animation was made with public money — for the Ministry of Information in the United Kingdom — scandalising some government bureaucrats.