Captain Thomas Blake was one of about 40 veterinarians to serve New Zealand in the First World War. He accompanied some of the 10,000 Kiwi farm horses sent to the frontlines in the Middle East and, later France. They faced terrible conditions: sand and heat in Sinai, mud and rain in France, and suffered disease and horrific wounds. This Great War Stories episode explores the tight bond between horse and soldier. In the end, only four horses came home. Blake also made history: while in Egypt, he became the first Kiwi to marry while the troops were on active service.
Open Door is a community-based TV series where groups or individuals make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This episode on the neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis features interviews with people who have been diagnosed with MS and their spouses, as well as MS fund-raisers and field officers. International expert Professor George Jelinek also features. Interviewees share their experiences of living with MS, and the programme discusses treatments and therapies.
Narrated by Hilary Barry and screening on 3 News, this series of short documentaries profiles New Zealanders involved in World War I. This episode looks at sexual health campaigner Ettie Rout, who was determined to tackle the high venereal disease rate amongst Kiwi soldiers. Her biographer Jane Tolerton tells of Rout advocating for prophylactic kits, and setting up a safe sex brothel in France. Rout attracted controversy and censorship, and was scorned by the establishment as immoral. But soldiers and doctors thanked her as the "guardian angel of the ANZACs".
This 2017 Loading Doc profiles Dominic Hoey (formerly known as rapper Tourettes) as he prepares a play about his battle with debilitating bone disease. Hoey, whose career clocks everything from punk drummer to poems in Landfall, brings a trademark rebel spirit as he reflects on his condition — and the challenges it gives to an artist renowned for his high voltage performances. Hoey was determined the portrait avoid being a pity fest, and collaborated with directors Damian Golfinopoulos and Stjohn Milgrew on the script. The result mixes interview, poetry and archive.
When 150 Niuean men were shipped off to Auckland en route to the Western Front, they had no idea what lay ahead. This Great War Story features the granddaughter of one of them, and the historian who researched his journey. Falaoa Tosene was “volunteered” to the NZ Māori Pioneer Battalion as a labourer. Unfamiliar food, uniforms and boots for men who had never worn shoes were the first shocks. In France, they faced freezing temperatures and disease. Tosene was hospitalised with trench foot. He survived, thanks to a former missionary, but 30 of his comrades died.
New Zealand's much-loved comedian and entertainer Billy T James tells the story of his heart transplant operation at Greenlane Hospital, in 1989, and his subsequent recovery. The documentary, much of which is filmed at the hospital (sometimes even from bed, as Billy re-enacts his operation) also features five other patients who he became close to over the months while they waited for their hearts. Entertaining as well as educational, the film includes a musical number with Max Cryer, dressed as a surgeon, joined in song by Billy and Don Selwyn.
Gina lives in a dark, silent, room in a Wellington rest home, unable to leave her bed, communicate except by a complex touch system, and barely able to move. A rare unnamed genetic disorder has left her living what she calls “an existence, not a life”. This documentary by Wellington film-makers Wendall Cooke and Jeremy Macey takes a look at her condition in relation to euthanasia, for which she is a passionate advocate. As Gina did not want to appear on camera, her sister Roslyn who suffers from the same condition, albeit less severely, portrays her in the film.
In Geoff Steven's Kiwi riff on the European art film, a vulcanologist (Brit character actor Nigel Davenport) roams the Volcanic Plateau accompanied by a journalist, a photographer and escapees from a cholera quarantine. Steamy philosophical musings and symbolic intent made for a marked departure from the realism of the NZ feature film renaissance (e.g. Steven’s own Skin Deep). The second feature produced by John Maynard (The Navigator), this moody allegorical tale was co-scripted by Czech writer/designer Ester Krumbachova and Czech-based Kiwi Michael Havas.
With the Second World War over, Kiwis stood with their more powerful allies in the occupation of Japan. But with Britain increasingly preoccupied with its home affairs and Europe, New Zealand began to set its own foreign policy agenda. In this episode of The Years Back presenter Bernard Kearns explains how New Zealand turned to its own backyard to create new export markets. That also meant military involvement in Korea and Malaya and a sometimes fumbling attempt at being a colonial power in the Pacific.
This excerpt from the 22nd episode of Kiwi literature series The Write Stuff features unionist and peace campaigner Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005). Davies had just released Marching On, the follow-up to her acclaimed 1984 autobiography Bread & Roses. Presenter Alison Parr asks Davies about her experience in Parliament, as well as personal tragedy and gardening. Davies reflects on achieving change, her dislike for the aggression of the debating chamber, and the values her grandparents taught her: "compassion and responsibility, caring for others more than you care for yourself …"