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 winner of Tropfest 2013, Cappuccino Tango, is a caffeinated musical set at the Ozone Bean Store that gently pokes fun at the New Zealand-wide obsession with the black stuff. The customers sing the names of their favourite brews in an ever-building chorus, broken only by the scandalous arrival of a decaf drinker — who performs a tango with a fellow decafer — and then by a pair of beverage infidels. New Plymouth-based production company Touching Cloth had previously made a series of V48 Hour Film Challenge films and have a background in local theatre and TV production. Writer Andy Bassett also composed 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.
In Larger than Life Jo (Rebecca Hobbs, star of horror tale The Ugly) discovers her new house is inhabited by an array of mutant arachnids, each larger than the last. Kiwi writer/director Ellory Elkayem cleverly melds puppetry and digital effects to give his spiders maximum yuck factor, while the violin-fuelled soundtrack pays spirited homage to the 50s monster movies (Them!, Tarantula) which inspired the whole enterprise. After the success of this spider tale, Hollywood called: Elkayem answered with bug tale They Nest, and comical spider epic Eight Legged Freaks.
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.
This episode of the Loose Enz series features small town intrigue in Hawkes Bay. Prickly, violin playing, ex-POW Austin (Derek Hardwick) refuses to retire despite handing over the farm to son Wesley (Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy) — and the impending sale of the neighbouring property (to Japanese buyers) puts him on the warpath one boozy night at the local. Rural land politics and identities are nicely observed, the farmers’ band is delightfully chaotic (with Paul Holmes as a sax-playing fencer), and the Land Rover stuck in reverse is worthy of Fred Dagg.