Arriving downunder from London in 1958, Marti Friedlander began photographing New Zealand, partly as a way of coming to terms with what she saw as its foreignness. In the process she captured aspects of Aotearoa that familiarity had made invisible to its inhabitants. She photographed artists, Springbok Tour protesters, and kuia with moko (for a book with historian Michael King). After screening on TV One, Shirley Horrocks' documentary was one of 20 chosen to screen at Doku.Arts 2007, a German festival devoted to films about artists. Friedlander passed away in November 2016.
Four decades before starring in The Last Samurai, New Zealand’s most symmetrical volcano stole the limelight in this NFU short. Extolling a mantra of progress and change, Taranaki presents New Plymouth as regional hub and suburban paradise, surrounded by bays and gladioli. Narrator Paul Ricketts touches on a conflict-soaked past by recalling his great grandmother’s nightly refuge in a central city stockade, during the 1860s Taranaki Wars. Back in 1954, a fishing license costs two pounds, and co-operatively-run dairy factories produce over half the nation’s cheese.
Lala Rolls (Children of the Migration) wrote and directed this short film, which gives a view of family life from a child's perspective. A young girl (Chelsie Preston Crayford) is disturbed from sleep by the sound of adults arguing. She tries to shut out this grown-up world by pretending to be "adult" and taking care of the dinner wasting in the kitchen while her parents unwittingly carry on arguing.
A fictional memoir of a 12-year-old boy's holiday on his uncle's farm, Old Man's Story is also a character study of the personable, potentially dodgy ex-sailor who works there as hired hand. When an orphaned girl comes to stay, there are worries the man has crossed the line in his relationship with her. The first drama for Wellington company The Gibson Group, Old Man's Story also marks a rare screen adaptation of author Frank Sargeson, whose tales of losers and outsiders made him "one of the founders of a modern New Zealand literature" (Lawrence Jones).
While visiting family down under, American teen Lonny catches up with his grandfather, a man with an infectious giggle, a thirst for adventure — and two vampire-sized incisors. Released locally as Grampire, this family-friendly adventure combines local names (among them future Pluto singer Milan Borich) with a winning turn as nice guy vampire by American Al Lewis (cult series The Munsters). Director David Blyth was won over by Michael Heath’s script because it reversed convention, and “was a plea for children to be allowed to keep and develop their imaginations”.
In a wooden cabin on the edge of the forest, a strange young girl referred to only as 'Kid' holds court over her trapper Dad and his isolated bush family; she sits beneath the dinner table, makes animal sounds and refuses to be washed. This pitch-black fable is told through the eyes — and distinctive voice — of her sympathetic brother 'Little Man', who one night makes a fateful decision that liberates her into the wild. Filmed in gas-lit sepia by Leon Narbey, the atmospheric and award-winning film announced the directorial talents of the late Brad McGann.
A lone boy in the wilderness and a mysterious airborne menace feature in this evocative, NZ Music Award-winning video for Avalanche City (aka musician Dave Baxter). Discovering a stag who’s fallen victim to the abstraction from the sky, the boy takes it upon himself to fight back, before it can inflict more damage on the forest’s residents. Despite the song being a last minute inclusion on Avalanche City’s second album We Are for the Wild Places, it later became the only Kiwi song to hit number one in 2015. An earlier video for the song was shot in one extended take on Raglan beach.
Keen to discover "the real essence" of his country, filmmaker Ryan Fielding spent two months travelling around New Zealand with camera in hand. The short film that Fielding came up with is a mosaic of Aotearoa and its people, dotted with moments of beauty and celebration, but precious few signs of wealth: rundown shops, quiet pubs, children larking around in the ocean, and a number of locals who appear slightly worse for wear.
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
"I hope you're braver than your brother." A young schoolboy (James Ordish) finds his day plunging into nightmare, when he gets called in for a session with the school dental nurse. The nurse (a sly performance by future casting director Tina Cleary) seems to take pleasure in other people's pain. Directed by cinematographer Warrick ‘Waka' Attewell (Starlight Hotel), this short film for the dental wary was written by Ken Hammon, who was part of the team behind Peter Jackson's debut feature, splatter flick Bad Taste.