Some of New Zealand's most memorable screen images have come from the genre of science fiction: Bruno wandering man alone onto Eden Park in a nightie; giant slugs living under Rangitoto. From alien hunters to futuristic fuel wars to nuclear volcanoes, this collection is a showcase of film and TV that has imagined 'what if?' versions of life in the shaky isles.
Established in 1989, NZ On Air has funded many of the television shows featured on NZ On Screen. Compiled to mark the 25th anniversary in 2015, this collection features a range of TV content funded in the agency's first year. With one representative from each genre, there’s the self-titled Billy T James sitcom, Richard Driver documentary Hokonui Todd and kids puppet show Bidibidi. Tainui Stephens' classic Māori Battalion documentary represents Māori programming, while long-running TVNZ series Tagata Pasifika tags ‘minority interests’.
Mystery and menace abound in this debut film from Alison Maclean (Crush, The Rehearsal). Made when Maclean was an Elam art student, the experimental short plays with gender and racial stereotypes by constantly thwarting narrative expectations. What there is of a plot consists of a woman emerging from the sea and a 'centrepiece' pursuit leading to a confrontation between two characters: a man and a woman. Scripted, shot and edited by Maclean, it marked the beginning of a fertile collaboration between Maclean and producer Bridget Ikin.
The title provides pointers towards the film noir intentions of this stylish short film. A well-travelled set-up — drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as the time -travel plot unravels. Jet Black features Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and fellow Shortlander Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress. The screenplay was written by director Kezia Barnett, novelist Chad Taylor (Heaven) and adman Karl Fleet. It was part of a series of shorts promoting Schweppes, by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.
TVNZ ventured back into country music for the first time since That’s Country with this series hosted by actor and musician Andy Anderson. Very much a down home cousin to its big budget predecessor, it bypassed glamour to focus firmly on live performances (with few retakes allowed). Music director Dave Fraser presided over a crack resident band. The guest performers included Midge Marsden, Dalvanius, John Grenell, Beaver, Sonny Day, Hammond Gamble and Brendan Dugan. The music sometimes strayed into other genres. Five episodes were made, but only four screened.
This film tells the story of the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt (kakī). With its precise beak and long pink legs the stilt is superbly adapted to the stony braided riverbeads of the McKenzie Country, but it is tragically unable to deal with new threats (rats, ferrets, habitat loss). An early doco for TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, the magnificently filmed drama of the stilt’s struggle for survival makes it “stand out as a classic of its genre” (Russell Campbell). It won the Gold Award at New York’s International Film & TV Festival (1984).
This film contrasts impressions of two places over the course of a day: Mana Island and Wellington city. Two young climbers (a teacher and a gardener) row out to the island while the sun rises and the city wakes up. Over smokes and beer, the men discuss why they climb. Evocative shots of their rockface ascent are paralleled with shots of city bustle: traffic, Radio Windy DJs and new high rises. The genre of dramatised documentary was relatively new when cinematographer Waka Attewell made this film — his directorial debut. It was mainly shot over two weekends in 1973.
In this odd couple tale set in the American west, Cohen Holloway (Until Proven Innocent, Boy) plays an outlaw who abducts an upper class Brit. Calamity ensues when the hardman fails to have his wicked way with her. The self-funded film screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, winning praise from critic Leonard Maltin. While Utu took the Western genre and applied it to NZ's colonial history, Good for Nothing mines South Island scenery for the first 'Pavlova Western'. Long-time Weta staffer Mike Wallis directs; and the rousing score is by composer John Psathas.
This four-part TVNZ series from 1986 surveyed the history of soul music, with a roll call of talented Kiwi performers belting out the genre's classics. In this first episode — presented by Dalvanius with Stevie Wonder braids — the focus is on the influential 60s soul music of New York label Atlantic Records. Singers include Bunny Walters, Debbie Harwood, The Yandall Sisters, Peter Morgan and more. Ardijah chime in with their contemporary soul hit ‘Your Love is Blind’. The series writer was Murray Cammick, founder of music magazine Rip It Up.
In the 1980s country and western music was a big part of the Kiwi music landscape, and arguably its best-loved star was Patsy Riggir. 'Beautiful Lady', from 1983 album Are You Lonely, was a song she wrote herself (unusual in a genre then heavy on covers). It won Most Popular Song at the 1983 NZ Music Awards, where Riggir was named Composer of the Year, and was a finalist in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards. This performance is from a 1985 variety gala celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand. The following year Riggir would front six-part TV series Patsy Riggir Country.