Tony Williams recognised that passion makes for compelling human interest whatever the subject and came up with the idea of a “pub battle” where three people from very different fields, but united by a common dedication to their respective callings, would be brought together to debate their obsessions. The subjects — choirmaster Maxwell Fernie, astronomer Peter (Night Sky) Read, and sports journalist Terry ‘TP’ McLean — are also filmed separately at work; shots of Fernie working with his choir are particularly notable in the scrum of sport, art and science.
This documentary profiles the humanitarian work of Professor Fred Hollows (1929-1993), a New Zealand-born, Australian based eye specialist who saved the sight of thousands of underprivileged people in Australia, Eritrea, Nepal and Vietnam through a mixture of boldness and common sense. The "intellectual with the wharfie's manner" became an Australian folk hero and was named Australian of the Year in 1990. Producer John Harris went on to found Greenstone Pictures, along with the film's director Tony Manson, who later became a Senior Commissioner for TVNZ.
A documentary about author Janet Frame based on the eponymous biography by Michael King. It travels through the familiar Frame themes - her alleged mental illness, family tragedies, overseas stays, how she began writing. Its value, and fresh insight, lies in the interviews with Frame's close friends and key figures in her life. They shed light on her personality and achievements. King in particular provides a considered, often-amusing account of Frame's life. This was his last interview for film; he was killed in a car accident in 2004.
The late Frank Torley was a Kiwi television legend, forever known as that Country Calendar guy - he variously narrated, directed, produced, and reported for the show over more than 40 years. But Torley hadn’t always been Mr Rural. He also spent time as a newsreader, Top Town presenter, documentary maker (including an early doco on AIDs), and producing religious programmes.
This programme in the Open Door series follows a group of people who have successfully conquered their mental illness and are now contributing to society. They talk about what caused their health problems and what it is that keeps them healthy. Creativity is a common theme. On their road to recovery many discovered hidden talents with which they now enrich their lives and the lives of others.
Ron Morrison is secretly dreading the ‘dating years’. Rebecca and Kevin have their home, their dog and more love to share, possibly with a baby. Holly Morrison isn’t that bothered with boys yet, but she is determined to pass her South American dance exam. This high-rating documentary examines the physical and emotional challenges of being a ‘little person’— someone living with achondroplasia, the most common cause of dwarfism. Ron, Holly, Rebecca and Kevin are determined to grasp opportunities, although Ron’s conflict of emotions is especially poignant.
In this interview publicising 1996 comedy The Birdcage, Robin Williams turns his humour settings to a surprisingly low level. Quizzed on matters political by Holmes reporter Ewart Barnsley, Williams argues that politically correct people can display the “same kind of repressive tendencies” as others, and admits that the portrait of homosexual parents in the Mike Nichols-directed comedy could be offensive to both gays and straights. But, he adds, the majority of viewers "go and laugh their ass off and find some common ground and humanity in it”.
Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with its tale of resourceful misfits. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83-year-old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata (Vanessa Rare in her screen debut) — a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into shoplifting, while Simon Barnett plays a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves, in this tale from writer Graeme Tetley.
Bruce Graham, wife Lynn and son Mark are in the funeral business, serving the people in the Waikato town of Tūākau at their darkest times. This episode of First Hand takes place in the aftermath of local man Athel Parsons' death, from collecting his body to his funeral and cremation. Athel lived alone but was from a large family. He contributed to his town through his love of sports, in particular indoor bowls. As Bruce organises Athel's farewell we learn about both men's lives, and how the most common of events can affect a small community.
This documentary about the sex industry in New Zealand features frank but sympathetic interviews with sex workers (including the Prostitutes Collective) and their clients. Topics discussed include the sex workers' reasons for doing the job, physical and sexual safety, the impact of AIDS, the role of drink and drug abuse, and managing a relationship with a husband or boyfriend. The film screened on TV3 after arguments about censorship, which Costa Botes writes about here. A Double Standard makes a compelling case for the industry to be decriminalised. Law change occurred in 2003.