In this family-friendly feature, Santa (Finnish actor Kari Väänänen) does a runner to a beach in Aotearoa days before his big night of the year, fed up with bureaucracy and brats. It falls to two Kiwi kids to get him out of the southern sun, and back to global gift giving. Director Tony Simpson (Kiwi Flyer) pitches the North Pole native against Kiwi biosecurity and a bickering camping family (including Step Dave's Sia Trockenheim). Sunday Star Times critic James Croot praised the trio of writers for delivering "a rare 21st century effort that evokes the memory of the great kidult dramedies."
Created by Dave Armstrong and Kerry Jimson, The Semisis was a satirical take on a contemporary Samoan-Kiwi family. In this opening episode, the Semisis handle eviction by heading to a campground with all their belongings. There romance buds, the palagi next door neighbour (Brian Sergent) proves unwelcoming, and the South African camp commander is even worse. The over the top Semisis family began as part of 90s TV sketch show Skitz; Armstrong consulted with cast members and a group of young Samoans from Porirua, while writing the scripts.
World War II veteran Everard Otto volunteered for the Territorials at 18, helping supply Americans troops based in New Zealand. But his real war story began when he turned 21 and was sent overseas. He eventually arrived in Italy as a staff car driver. Mostly behind the lines, Otto’s memory of service is based around the brutal battles for Monte Cassino, watching the cruel fighting and bombing that razed the famous hilltop monastery. Returning decades later he found the countryside largely unchanged. He even found the dugout where he spent four eventful months.
This short film from 1955 offers a comprehensive look at how knowledge of bushcraft can make safer "our green heritage of the high hills and bush”. Following a tramping party, the narration takes a straightforward approach to the subject, detailing skills like packing, river crossing, route finding, fire lighting, and building a bivvy. Some tips are timeless: “There’s no point in going like a bull at a gate” through supplejack, while others are of their era: pipe-smoking, barley sugar, and logs for tent poles. The film was part of a National Film Unit educational series on mountain safety.
This 1972 National Film Unit production promotes New Zealand’s national parks, from the oldest — Tongariro (established in 1887) — to Mt Aspiring (1964). Besides slatherings of scenic splendour, the film shows rangers clearing tracks, 70s après ski activity on Ruapehu, and school children at Rotoiti Youth Lodge: skylarking, river crossing, and cornflake eating en masse. When this film was made there were 10 National Parks (there are now 14). “In all their variety they’re the heritage of everyone who’s heard the call and felt the freedom of the unspoilt land.”
In this second part of a documentary on Kiwis and cars, host Rita Te Wiata explores motoring in the latter half of the 20th Century. She begins in Christchurch where Ford V8s were a vehicle for post-war romance, then heads to Tahuna for beach racing. Te Wiata pockets the licence she supposedly got in part one and heads to Raglan to look at the car-enabled freedom of the 60s and 70s: surfing, fishing, caravans. While downsides are mentioned (motorways, pollution, accidents), mostly it’s a paean to petrolhead passion. The tour ends with a cruise up Queen St in a muscle car.
Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy, Leanne Pooley’s documentary was made to mark the Topp Twins' 50th birthday. New Zealand's favourite comedic, country singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters tell their personal story: from their 'coming out' to Jools' brush with breast cancer. The film features archive material, home movies and interviews with the Topps' alter egos. Alongside local box office success and dozens of international awards, Girls won the People’s Choice award for favourite documentary at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
There is a Place is one of many Kiwi tourism films that Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand) made for the National Film Unit. After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proved unhappy with the original version, the director was forced to remove “all parts of the film that offend the sensitivities of Foreign Affairs.” Macdonald ended up cutting it in half, removing "anything that reflects badly on the country". The end result is a quick stroll through New Zealand’s four main cities, and a brief look at everything the locals hold dear: rugby football, agriculture, public bars, and pottery.
In this one-off documentary Te Radar takes his roving reporter skills to Takaka, and immerses himself in the groovy world of The Gathering. The New Year's dance music festival ran from 1996 to 2002. Radar proves the master of the quote, whether chatting to 'Lords of the Ping', electronic act Pitch Black or avoiding immolation from fire poi enthusiasts ("who doesn't love a fire poi", he says grimly). Watch out for Black Seed Bret McKenzie, laidback DJ star John Digweed and the earnest 'Jesus Food' crew, whose free dosh proves a bit too popular for rival food stalls.
The legendary Dylan Taite hosts this RWP special on the first Sweetwaters music festival. The event took 12 months and half a million dollars to set up. Headliner Elvis Costello proved media-shy; some heavy-handed attempts to keep the cameras away are seen. Meanwhile, Taite muses on the impact of late 70s bands on the future of festivals. Sweetwaters would go on, although financial problems in 1999 led to the jailing of organiser Daniel Keighley. As this documentary shows, the Ngaruawahia edition attracted an audience of 45,000 concertgoers.