Gordon Crook: A Life of Art

Film, 2010 (Excerpts)

Wellington artist Gordon Crook was known for his bold, colourful prints and tapestries. In this documentary, director Clare O’Leary mixes Crook’s biography (from UK foster care to London Central School of Art lecturer, then decades in Wellington) and interviews with Crook, dealers, students and mates. In this excerpt Crook discusses his work, and collaborating with weaver Lesley Nicholls; and friend Edith Ryan recalls first seeing Crook’s massive Michael Fowler Centre banners. The documentary premiered at the 2010 NZ Film Festival. Crook died in August 2011, aged 89.

A Sense of Involvement

Short Film, 1977 (Full Length)

This award-winning National Film Unit documentary looks at the craft movement in New Zealand, as this counterpoint to industrial mass production went mainstream. The sense of involvement in the title refers to the individual skills that potters, weavers, printmakers, furniture makers and sculptors bring to making their objects. Director David Sims avoids narration, instead using music from composer Tony Baker to score scenes of the makers at work, from the loom, furnace and kiln, to workshop and studio. As a flashback to the late 70s, facial hair, ceramics and wool abound.

Land of My Ancestors - Darcy Nicholas Artist

Television, 2007 (Excerpts)

This documentary looks at Māori painter/sculptor Darcy Nicholas. Nicholas grew up in the Taranaki, among extended whanau. “We didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of aroha and a lot of land to play in”. It looks at Nicholas’s relationship to his Māoritanga, and at how he took on the mantle of helping organise Toi Māori: The Eternal Flame - the first touring exhibition of Māori weaving. He and other participants recall their experiences of travelling to America, and weaving “a map of friendship” with native American tangata whenua.

Moana Roa

Short Film, 1951 (Full Length)

This 1951 National Film Unit production looks at the Cook Islands, and marks the 50th anniversary of the islands’ annexation in 1901. Unusually long (half an hour) for an NFU film, it shows history ("Vikings of the Pacific" through Captain Cook to New Zealand administration) and island life: spear-fishing, catamaran sailing, breadfruit gathering, weaving, dancing and singing. The islands are depicted as paradise guided by NZ paternalism, with the Islanders grateful recipients of modern communication, technology, health services, education, and... tinned meat.

Come on to New Zealand

Short Film, 1980 (Full Length)

The line “where the bloody hell are you?” generated controversy when used in a 2006 Aussie tourism campaign; so who knows what 1980 audiences made of this promo’s exhortation to “Come on to New Zealand.” But as the narration assures: “It’s a safe country. You can walk without being molested.” Aimed at the US market, the film was made as long haul air travel was opening up NZ as a destination. Māori culture, sheep and pretty scenery are highlighted, alongside skinny dipping and weaving (!). Narrated by Bob Parker, the NFU promo marked an early gig for editor Annie Collins.

Daughters of the Pacific

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

This 2005 documentary tells the story of four New Zealand-born women whose parents come from villages in Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Social worker and photographer Emily Mafile'o, students and mothers Pule Puletaua and Lanni Liuvaie, and playwright Louise Tu’u face the challenges of combining two cultures to forge an identity in Aotearoa — from family, language, food and religion, to flatting and hair cutting rituals. As narrator Sandra Kailali says, "to be true to both is hard work: success in one often comes at a cost to the other." 

Te Marae - A Journey of Discovery

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

The enormous significance to Māori of marae, as places of belonging where ritual and culture can be preserved, is explored in this Pita Turei-directed documentary. Made in conjunction with the NZ Historic Places Trust, it chronicles the programme to restore marae buildings and taonga around the country — and the challenge of maintaining the tribal heritages expressed in them. As well as visiting some of NZ's oldest marae, one of the newest also features — Tapu Te Ranga, in Wellington’s Island Bay, which is being built from recycled demolition wood.  

Roseworld '71

Short Film, 1972 (Full Length)

In November 1971 more than 70,000 visitors converged on Hamilton over six days for the first ever World Rose Convention. What's in a name? Well it can help you locate favourite flowers in the vast exhibition, but "form, substance and freshness" rule as this NFU short film shows the meticulous preparation, judging and reactions. Side-trips for international visitors to Paradise Valley and Rotorua's thermal areas add a travelogue element. But from the opening time-lapse shot of a blooming rose it's clear what these 'rosarians' are there for.

Te Māori - A Celebration of the People and their Art

Short Film, 1985 (Full Length)

After kicking off with 'Poi-E' and the opening of landmark exhibition Te Māori in New York, this documentary sets out to summarise the key elements of Māori culture and history in a single hour. Narrator Don Selwyn ranges across past and (mid 80s) present: from early Māori settlement and moa-hunting, to the role of carvings in "telling countless stories". There are visits to Rotorua's Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and a Sonny Waru-led course aimed at getting youth in touch with their Māoritanga. The interviews include Napi Waaka and the late Sir James Hēnare.   

Gateway to New Zealand

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

“Only 40 hours by air from San Francisco and six from Sydney, Auckland New Zealand is on your doorstep.” In 1952, NZ tourism was also a long way from a core contributor to the national economy. A flying boat and passenger ship deposits visitors in the “Queen among cities” for this National Film Unit survey of Kiwi attractions. The potted tour takes in yachting, the beach, postwar housing shortage, school patrols, dam building and the War Memorial Museum, before getting out of town into dairy, racing and thermal wonderlands, where “you can meet some of our Māori people”.