Made for the 75th anniversary of the Tourist and Publicity Department, this National Film Unit short film surveys New Zealand tourism: from shifts in transport and accommodation, to how Aotearoa is marketed. The "romantic outpost of Empire" seen in 1930s promotional films gives way to a more relaxed, even saucy pitch, emphasising an uncrowded, fun destination. Middle-earth is not yet on the horizon; instead Wind in the Willows provides literary inspiration. Directed by Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand), it screened alongside Bugsy Malone and won a Belgian tourist festival award.
In the early 1970s expat broadcaster Michael Dean took Aotearoa’s pulse, as it loosened its necktie and moved from “ice-cream on mutton, swilled around in tea” conservatism, towards a more cosmopolitan outlook. Dean asks the intelligentsia (James K Baxter, Tim Shadbolt, Peter Cape, Shirley Smith, Bill Sutch, Ian Cross, Peter Beaven, Pat Hanly, Syd Jackson, Hana Te Hemara) for their take. The questions range from “what does the family in Tawa sit down to eat these days?” to the Māori renaissance. Dean had made his name in the 60s, as a high profile broadcaster with the BBC.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
Brought to you from "the Samoan Embassy" (in reality the Naked Samoans' motel room) this episode of The Living Room follows the comedic theatre troupe during their time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then it retreats to the wild west coast of the South Island, where acclaimed cinematographer Alun Bollinger reflects on his diverse life and career. Also featured is the first 'proper' exhibition of Illicit artists on K' Road (featuring the late Martin Edmond), and a visit to small town Mangaweka, setting for Michael Reihana's surrealist short film Little Gold Cowboy.
Director Justin Pemberton takes this love song by Paul Casserly and Fiona McDonald (from fourth Strawpeople album Vicarious) and transforms it into an exercise in noir influenced, brooding unease. His video takes place over a night at a rural motel (with McDonald as a receptionist, and Casserly up to no good with a range of medical equipment). A tarot card-reading, yoga-practising new-ager, a traveller with unexplained cages, and random appearances from stringed instrument-playing senior citizens contribute to the growing sense of disquiet.
Crush is a tale of simmering sexuality set in Rotorua. Moral or sexual ambiguity pervades the narrative of conflicted desire. Its mix of blocked-up writer, spurting mud-pools, infatuated teen, eel farm, American femme fatale (Marcia Gay Harden), noir motels, limp pongas and wheelchairs, plays out in a symbolic NZ landscape not seen before (or since). Director Alison Maclean's debut feature (which she co-wrote with Anne Kennedy) played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Justin Pemberton's work for the screen can be split roughly into two. His eclectic and award-winning run of documentaries includes motor-racing story Love, Speed and Loss and acclaimed Olympic saga The Golden Hour. He has also worked on many music projects, from music videos to documentaries about Anika Moa and the NZ Symphony Orchestra.
Alison Maclean has brought an original vision to screen, whether it be in personal, expressionistic films: the Kiwi gothic duo of Kitchen Sink and her first feature, Crush, acclaimed junkie redemption song Jesus' Son, and her adaptation of Eleanor Catton novel The Rehearsal — or in high profile television series like Sex in the City and The Tudors.
The trio of documentaries surrounding the religious community of Gloriavale generated huge TV ratings. Amanda Evans is the director and producer behind this mini-TV phenomenon. In her 30 year career she has produced and/ or directed documentaries, reality series and iconic Kiwi kids and arts shows.
Brit-born but long based in New Zealand, April Phillips has acted on television and film, and written a number of award-winning short films. She both wrote and starred in shorts Letter for Hope and Utu Pihikete, then stepped up to directing with 2016's REM. The horror tale won screenings and awards at a number of global film festivals. Phillips has a Masters in Scriptwriting from Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters. Her extensive CV of theatre work includes ensemble drama Motel. Her comic play STiFF has had seasons in Auckland, London and Melbourne.