Farming in New Zealand

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

A pocket survey of the diversity of Kiwi farming circa 1952, this film serves as a booster’s reminder that thanks to self-reliance and research, New Zealand ranks as “one of the world’s great farming countries”. Cameraman Brian Brake captures arresting high contrast imagery: cattle move in silhouette against the sky; dust-caked fertiliser trucks emerge from clouds of lime; shirtless WWII veterans load silage onto harvesters. Meanwhile an upbeat, nationalistic voiceover pays homage to the holy trinity of good pasture, stock and climate.

Our People Our Century - A Piece of Land

Television, 2000 (Excerpts)

This Philip Temple-scripted episode of Our People, Our Century covers stories of New Zealanders and their turangawaewae: a piece of land they call their own. The importance of the land to farming families, and to the economy of NZ is explored through the eyes of three families. Elworthy Station in South Canterbury is being farmed by a 5th generation Elworthy. Two elderly ladies reminisce on their childhood in remote Mangapurua, near Raetihi in the central North Island. And a Māori family in Taranaki reflects on their decision to sell the family farm. 

Outdoor Dogs

Short Film, 1953 (Full Length)

This New Zealand Now edition looks at working dogs. A brief look at show dogs makes way for a Timaru sheep farmer conducting six border collies to round up a mob of ewes. Elsewhere pig dogs bail up a wild boar; rabbit hunters use spaniels to flush their prey; retrievers aid pheasant and duck shooters; and off goes the hare for the greyhound to chase. The attitude to imported species (seen as game rather than as environmental pests) dates the film to an acclimatisation society era, and the close relationship between man and dog provides enduring fascination.

Meat

Film, 2017 (Trailer)

This feature documentary goes beyond the supermarket deep freeze, to look at the stories behind the meat that ends up on our plates. The film is built around three farmers and a hunter: industrial pig farmer Ian, who argues profit is not his main motivation, straight-talking 'one-woman farming operation' Jill, chicken farmer Tony (who discusses killing 1000 chickens a week), and deer hunter Josh, who thinks that many lack awareness of how food gets to their plate. Directed by David White (short film I Kill), Meat can be watched in full via The NZ Herald website (see link below). 

Taranaki

Short Film, 1954 (Full Length)

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.

The Great New Zealand 1kg of Cheese

Short Film, 1985 (Full Length)

This 1985 promotional film for the New Zealand Dairy Board catalogues diversifying taste in cheese as Kiwis move beyond the big block of cheddar. New varieties — feta, brie, camembert — are pitched as part of an evolution towards a more exotic and ‘gourmet’ culinary culture. A camel-riding Catherine Saunders looks at the process of how cheese is made in NZ; a highlight is the making of blue vein mould, and fondue gets a mention (“gruyère is best”). The film opens with an ad anointing “the great New Zealand 1Kg!” alongside a line-up of iconic Kiwi measurements.

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.

Meet New Zealand

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

This post-war film was made to showcase New Zealand to UK audiences. Directed by Michael Forlong, the NFU film is a booster’s catalogue of contemporary NZ life. The message is that NZ is a modern pastoral paradise: open for business but welfare aware. Nature is conquered via egalitarian effort; air and sea links overcome the tyranny of distance; and science informs primary industry. Māori are depicted assimilating into the Pākehā world. Sport, suburbia and scenic wonder are touted, and an NZSO performance shows that the soil can grow culture as well as clover. 

The Lion and the Kiwi

Film, 1959 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit documentary follows the British Lions 1959 rugby tour to New Zealand. Prior to live televised sports coverage, match highlights were rushed onto cinema screens; NFU tour coverage was later edited into this feature length doco. On the field the series was won by the All Blacks 3-1, including the first test where Don Clarke famously kicked six penalties to beat the Lions’ four tries. Off the field, the Lions visited farms and resorts, drove trout and tried Māori song and dance with guide Rangi. A star back for the Lions was Peter Jackson. 

The Price of Milk

Film, 2000 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Lucinda (Danielle Cormack) lives a fairytale life with dairy farmer Rob (Karl Urban), and his 117 cows. But after a freak car accident she decides to test Rob's love for her by trying to make him angry. He passes her tests until a quilt goes missing from their bed; the price of getting it back is high. Harry Sinclair's follow-up to Topless Women Talk about their Lives is quirky and romantic, but not especially fantastical — yet it won a trio of awards at specialist fantasy film festivals overseas. The fulsome soundtrack is performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.