"New Zealand is ready" is the message in this early propaganda film made by the National Film Unit. It follows Japan's entry into World War II in December 1941. Until then the war had been a largely remote experience for many New Zealanders. Now our own soil was threatened. Using robust language and delivery, along with pictures of New Zealand defence forces in live-fire exercises, the film seeks to reassure while warning against overconfidence. New Zealand's remoteness is presented as a plus for defence and there's a subtext of self-reliance.
New Zealand Munitions was the 26th National Film Unit effort, and the longest made in the Unit's first year. The NFU was established in August 1941 to make films illustrating New Zealand's war effort. Completed in December of that year, this is a classic propaganda piece. As World War II intensifies, New Zealanders are reassured that the country has the heavy industry required to supply its army. Factories are converted to wartime needs and munitions pour out. A suitably bellicose script informs viewers "This is our striking power: men and munitions."
Motivated by a major health scare, Slavko Martinov decided to make films. He began by devoting years to a film that attacked Western propaganda, but was itself disguised as a piece of North Korean propaganda. Since being loaded onto YouTube in 2012, Propaganda has continued to fool many viewers. Martinov went on to make acclaimed documentary Pecking Order, about the world of bird breeding. Like Propaganda, it was invited to a number of global festivals. Martinov has also directed two documentaries for television: The Nip Tuck Trick, on plastic surgery, and One 16th, about a man capitalising on his Māori heritage.
Palmerston North-born Michael Dean won fame as a longtime presenter on pioneering BBC arts show Late Night Line-Up. Although his three decade broadcasting career was mostly spent in England, Dean also did time downunder. In 1972 he presented an opinionated Survey special on how New Zealand had changed, followed by talk show Dean on Saturday. He passed away in England on 5 October 2015.
An ideas man who campaigned for a Government film body, Stanhope Andrews would become the National Film Unit's first manager. Andrews commanded the Unit for a decade. Along the way he oversaw dramatic expansion, set up regular newsreel Weekly Review, and opened the door to filmmakers of both genders.
A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.
Finola Dwyer, ONZM, began as an editor. After cutting Country Calendar and movie Trial Run, she was encouraged by Larry Parr to become a producer. Three films and a number of TV programmes later, Dwyer began her producing career anew in London in the early 90s. Her work in England stretches from acclaimed Beatles feature Backbeat to Oscar-nominated dramas An Education and Brooklyn.
From his early days on the stage, Percy Hayes was known for singing and impressions; but it was as actor Rupert Julian that he made his name in Australia, then in the pictures in America. After earning a million dollars as director, producer, writer and star of The Kaiser, his directing career peaked with The Phantom Of The Opera in 1925, starring Lon Chaney. He stayed on in a mansion in LA's Hollywood Hills, until his death in 1943.Image: courtesy of Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archive
Alister Barry has been making intelligent and provocative documentaries for more than three decades. Barry's films reflect his longtime interest in how power is exercised in a democracy, and how the decisions of the powerful impact on ordinary people's lives.
John Anderson got busy directing a run of television dramas in the 1980s, including award-winning Polynesian road movie Mark ll, and two of the final works by playwright Bruce Mason. The onetime actor reinvented himself as a documentary filmmaker in the 90s, then relocated to Kiribati, where he worked on more than 400 films covering everything from climate change to dance. Anderson died in Kiribati on 19 August 2016.