Celebrating the 75th anniversary of government filmmakers the National Film Unit, this collection pulls highlights from the 370+ wartime newsreels, tourism promos and Oscar nominees from the NFU which can be watched on NZ On Screen. Curated by NFU expert Clive Sowry, the collection includes backgrounders by Roger Horrocks, plus Film Unit alumni Sam Pillsbury, Paul Maunder, Arthur Everard and Lynton Diggle.
In the beginning — of both movies and books — is the word. Many classic Kiwi films and television dramas have come from books (Sleeping Dogs, Whale Rider); and many writers have found new readers, through being celebrated and adapted on screen. This collection showcases Kiwi books and authors on screen. Plus check out booklover Finlay Macdonald's backgrounder.
Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.
The Coming-of-Age collection includes many of New Zealand's most beloved films. Featured are grumpy uncles, annoying parents, plus a wide range of children and teens negotiating the challenges of growing older — and wiser. Among the young actors making an early mark are an Oscar-nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), James Rolleston (Boy) and 12-year-old Fiona Kaye (Vigil). The titles include Alone, the winner of NZ On Screen's very first ScreenTest film contest. In the backgrounder, young Kiwi actor Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie writes from New York.
Seven decades after he began shooting films, Ted Coubray got his close-up in Mouth Wide Open. The documentary emerged shortly after his death in late 1997. It captured the hive of filmmaking activity that was 1920s Aotearoa — and Coubray's role as a pioneering cameraman, who even directed his own movie (horse racing hit Carbine's Heritage). The arrival of synchronised sound upped film budgets considerably; Coubray was one of the first in Australasia to create his own sound camera. In this opening sequence, he demonstrates one of his many camera-related inventions.
Writer Janet Frame (1924 - 2004) is an icon of New Zealand literature; her 'edge of the alphabet' use of language has seen her acclaimed as "one of the great writers of our time" (San Francisco Chronicle). This collection celebrates Frame's life and work on screen, from applauded Vincent Ward and Jane Campion translations to a rare TV interview with Michael Noonan.
Fish Out of Water manages to unfurl its light-hearted tale of young man and the sea, without a word of dialogue. Avoiding the morning traffic jams, our man (Nick Dunbar) finds peace by rowing each day to work in the city. But when a seductive blonde unexpectedly enters the picture, he finds his morning boat ride heading in unexpected directions. Directed by Lala Rolls (Land of My Ancestors), Fish Out of Water was invited to play in the 2005 NZ Film Festival, plus another 10 overseas fests. Victoria Kelly composes the brass and banjo-inflected soundtrack.
In this experimental drama shot in 1975, four young idealists escape the city for rural Foxton, and set about living off the land. But an act of violence sends the commune into isolation and extremism. Teasing tense drama from rural settings, the 90 minute tale from maverick National Film Unit director Paul Maunder shines a harsh light on the contradictions of the frontier spirit. Although state television funded it, they found it too edgy to screen; instead Landfall debuted at the 1977 Wellington Film Festival. The cast includes Sam Neill as a Vietnam vet, and Mark ll director John Anderson.
This black and white short film (with hardboiled voiceover) follows canine filmmaker Quinn Hud to the dog-eat-dog world of the Cannes Film Festival to sell his latest work. Director Jonathan Ogilvie honed his skills making music videos for Flying Nun bands; and he shot the Super 8 footage for this tale when his short Despondent Divorcee screened at Cannes 1995. Quinn Hud’s 18 second epic features as a film within a film — and the cavalcade of stars alone would warrant watching this witty Tropfest winner (also chosen for competition at Cannes and Telluride).
Animated plasticine. Talking chickens. Dancing Cossacks. Plus old favourites bro'Town, Hairy Maclary and Footrot Flats. From Len Lye to Gollum, feast on the talents of Kiwi animators. In his backgrounder to the Animation Collection, NZ On Screen's Ian Pryor provides handy pathways through the frogs, dogs and stop motion shenanigans.