In colonial times drowning was so rife it was known as 'the New Zealand death'. This jaunty 1951 educational film is an effort to rid our lakes, rivers and seas of the unfortunate tag through cunning reverse psychology, as swimmers, fishermen and skylarking lads learn "how to drown". It eschews the confrontational realism of many a later PSA for the light-hearted approach: mixing lessons on water safety with silent film-style tomfoolery, gallows humour and the odd bit of sexual innuendo. Features footage of surf lifesavers using the now-archaic rope and reel.
Made by the NFU for the NZ Water Safety Council this film enlists shock to provoke punters to consider water safety. On a summer’s day a fisherman, surfer and boatie all reckon it's “a great day for it”. But thoughtlessness results in tragedy. Directed by Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand), the disjunct between the jaunty song on the soundtrack and sunken bodies onscreen anticipates the graphic horror of the late 90s/early 00s road safety ads (sharing kinship with 1971 bush safety PSA Such a Stupid Way to Die). Grant Tilly cameos as a radio DJ.
This episode of the turn of the century youth show trips out in the mud, at The Gathering dance party in Takaka. Havoc then talks to Manchester DJs at Piha, and interviews legendary comedian Robin Williams, who ranges from getting bitten by a dolphin to being scared by Paul Holmes. When this episode aired in January 2000, the hosts were at the peak of their infamy, having baited the BSA earlier in the series with a student stapling his genitals to a cross and setting it alight, and a woman on the street being asked whether she’d consider a sexual act for four dollars.
A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven by their brutally insistent chief towards safety. Two water-boys are crouched in the bow. One of them risks a bold act of compassion — towards the trophy prisoner tied to the stern. The impressively-produced portage has echoes of Werner Herzog movie Fitzcarraldo, but the story is palpably Māori. Directed by Tearepa Kahi, Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival, and was selected for the Berlin, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand festivals.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Live to air on weekend mornings since 1981, it is a Kiwi kids' TV institution. This Christmas Special sees presenters Simon Barnett, Jason 'The Ace' Gunn, and Cath McPherson larking it up with guests (Cath's Scottish Uncle Bob, Constable Keith and Sniff the Dog, The Wizard of Christchurch, the NZ 'Young Guns' cricket team) and in oddball summer and Christmas tales. Eddie and Fifi do decorative DIY. Check out the stone-wash denim and Barnett's frosted tips and lycra shorts.
This full-length documentary recreates three fatal fires to find out the characteristics of a killer fire, and reveal how it goes about its business: how easily fires start, what feeds them, and how ill-prepared most people are to fight a fire. Interviews with survivors — some of them talking publicly for the first time — firefighters, and investigators are interwoven with footage of real (condemned) houses set alight. Fatal Fires screened in TV One's Danger Zone series, which included DIY Disasters and Dangerous Waters.
Joel Haines has composed screen music for over two decades, including soundtracks for TV shows Outrageous Fortune, Westside, The Brokenwood Mysteries and Mercy Peak— plus movies This Way of Life and After the Waterfall. Haines has also created themes for dozens of high profile brands (Air New Zealand, McDonald's), and channel music for TV2, Māori Television, and Sky Sports.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
Some jobs never make the headlines; in the screen industry, one of those unsung positions is the production manager. After seven years on film sets in Asia, Brian Walden returned home in the mid 70s to production manage the shoots of many classic TV dramas, from Hunter’s Gold to Hanlon. In 1985 he went freelance, keeping a firm hand on shoots involving horses, hospital porters, vampires and underwater aeroplanes.
Dropping in on the Americans at the South Pole for afternoon tea, having driven there by tractor, was one of the most unusual events of Derek Wright's career as a National Film Unit cameraman. In his 40 years with the NFU he filled many other roles, from laboratory assistant to producer: but it is for his filming in the Antarctic that he is particularly remembered.