In this episode of the archive-compiled history series, Bernard Kearns focuses on the Roaring Twenties. Soldiers returning from the First World War struggle to tame the land as commodity prices fall. The Labour Party, with miners as its backbone, gains a foothold on the political scene, and the Ratana Church emerges as an alternative to more distant Māori leaders. In Dunedin, the New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition proves a huge success and members of the Royal Family are popular visitors to our shores. But the Great Depression looms.
Instrumental track ‘White Rabbit’ made Peter Posa a household name in the 60s — the success of the two minute guitar solo led to US recordings and meetings with Frank Sinatra and Chet Atkins. In 2012 a best of compilation debuted atop the NZ album chart, and later became the year’s biggest selling release. This May 2015 Seven Sharp piece sees Hadyn Jones head to Waikato Hospital to interview “New Zealand’s greatest guitar player”. Jones discovers that a stroke appears to have ended the 74-year-old pensioner's guitar playing; but it has also liberated him from depression.
Kidult drama Gather your Dreams follows Kitty (Kerry McGregor), an aspiring performer travelling with her family's vaudeville troupe in 1930s NZ. In this episode, the troupe competes for viewers with boxing promoter Ted Crawley (George Henare) at a Depression relief camp. Troupe patriarch Wallace (Terence Cooper) plots to best Crawley by managing "Haggis the brawling Scot" (actor's agent and On the Mat legend Robert Bruce’s acting debut). But the 'worker's hope' turns out to be a stooge with a glass jaw. Will coaching from Kitty save the day? The show must go on!
An echoey guitar instrumental called ‘White Rabbit’ made Peter Posa a huge star in 60s New Zealand. This 2003 Sunday report offers a ‘whatever happened to?’ style report on Posa’s life and career. Presenter Cameron Bennett catches up with the once prolific Posa in Kamo, Whangarei, where he learns of guitarist’s struggles with depression and alcoholism, the devotion of his wife Margaret and their salvation through faith — and his journey to performing again. Nine years later, a 'best of’ release of Posa’s music would top the NZ album charts.
The Great Depression — the biggest social upheaval ever faced by New Zealand — is the subject of this very well-received three part NZBC drama series. Based on an award-winning script by Michael Noonan, The Longest Winter focuses on the experiences of politicians, the middle class family of a jewellery shop owner, a boot maker and an unemployed workers’ group. It examines the inter-related forces that combined in the early 30s to plunge New Zealand into some of its darkest days — and left the nation and many of its citizens scarred for decades after.
Bernard Kearns presents a survey of NZ life in the 30s in this episode of the National Film Unit series The Years Back (“people and events that shaped the New Zealand of today”). The documentary includes a wealth of footage taken from NFU stock: the aftermath of the 1931 Napier earthquake, the Depression (as Kearns bluntly states, “there was a lot of misery in the 30s”), and runner Jack Lovelock’s gold medal triumph at the Berlin Olympics. There’s also editorial flair as King George VI’s lavish coronation ceremony is juxtaposed with the A&P show back home.
Anna Campion directs her mother Edith and younger sister Jane in this slyly observed short: a re-imagining of Edith’s (reluctant) audition for a small role in Jane’s An Angel at My Table. From when Edith picks Jane up at the airport en route to her Otaki home, the professional and personal roles blur. Anxiety, huffs and matriarchal needling ensue as an often comic, sometimes poignant domestic tango between the former stage actress and film director Jane plays out in front of the camera. Anna was studying at London’s Royal College of Art when the film was made.
Tis the season to be toxic in this "distinctly Kiwi take on the f***ed up whanau" (Chris Knox, Real Groove). Broke, depressed oldest son Keri arrives home to face up to a suburban Christmas countdown and two messed up sisters, a gay brother, drunk kids, and narcoleptic parents. Director Gregory King wrests bleak comedy and holiday horrors from the tokes, tinsel and frequent toilet visits. The raw realism of his debut feature saw it selected for Toronto, Locarno, Edinburgh, and Melbourne festivals. It won best digital film and script at the 2003 NZ Film Awards.
This 2006 documentary is a portrait of one of New Zealand politics' most contradictory figures: unionist Ken Douglas. At the time of filming Douglas occupied numerous board positions (eg Air New Zealand, the NZ Rugby Football Union), but early on he was a truckie and Marxist. Rob Muldoon branded him 'Red Ken'. For 15 years until 1999 he led the Council of Trade Unions. Directed by Monique Oomen for Top Shelf Productions, the film is framed around interviews with Douglas and his colleagues, and asks whether he is a turncoat or a strategic realist moving with the times.
For this short documentary made as part of the Loading Docs series, director Ygnacio Cervio explores mental health awareness from the perspective of someone "who encourages people to make a change, but finds his own struggles on that journey". After losing some close friends to suicide, barber Sam Dowdall decided to take an epic road trip across New Zealand, trading his skills for goods and services and starting conversations with Kiwi men about mental health. With only his dog for company, Dowdall opens up about his own bad days when he has to "eat his own medicine".