In 1968 John Rowles scored a top three hit in the UK. Late that year he returned to New Zealand to a rapturous welcome. A fly-on-the-wall documentary was made about his homecoming tour, from which this clip of Rowles performing ‘M’Lady’ is taken. On the tour he launched 'M’Lady' as his next NZ single; he tells an Auckland DJ that it's his best "uptempo" song yet, and the tune scores scenes of Rowles galavanting around a playground with a cigar, pretending to drive a tractor, and licking an ice cream on the beach. 'M’Lady' went on to top the Kiwi charts.
Internationally successful Kiwi film producer Finola Dwyer began her career as an editor at the National Film Unit and then moved on to editing and producing at TVNZ. Dwyer migrated over to the film industry and worked as an editor and producer. Some of the memorable New Zealand films she worked on include Came a Hot Friday, Starlight Hotel, and The Quiet Earth. In the 90s, Dwyer moved to the UK where she has made a name for herself producing films such as Backbeat, An Education and Dean Spanley.
Created for television by author Maurice Gee, The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown school kids against a balaclava-clad figure with fire on the brain. In this episode, the children sneak onto the property of the man they suspect of terrorising their town. The police arrive after Kitty is trapped inside a room that has tragic memories for the suspect’s mother, the memorably moody Mrs Marwick. This WWI-era gothic adventure went on to score four Listener TV awards, including best drama; and Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas.
This documentary follows the build-up by the Auckland Warriors to their first match in Australia’s National Rugby League competition (against the Brisbane Broncos). They are the first offshore club to compete in the NRL. The excitement and routines of a burgeoning pro sport franchise — from training to brand development — are captured alongside player profiles: Dean Bell is captain, coach is John Monie, and future Kiwi league legend Stacey Jones is an 18-year-old rising star. Presented by Temuera Morrison, the score is hard rock, and the jersey sponsor is DB Bitter.
This 1962 National Film Unit short uses the relationship between Māori and manu (birds) as a platform to celebrate New Zealand bush birds — from food source and key roles in myth, to their general character. Legend of Birds was filmed on Kāpiti and Little Barrier Islands. Many of the images were captured by noted nature photographers Kenneth and Jean Bigwood, and the score is by composer Larry Pruden. The narration includes a rap-style tribute to the kākā parrot: “squarks about his indigestion, population and congestion … politics the current question”.
This award-winning National Film Unit documentary looks at the craft movement in New Zealand, as this counterpoint to industrial mass production went mainstream. The sense of involvement in the title refers to the individual skills that potters, weavers, printmakers, furniture makers and sculptors bring to making their objects. Director David Sims avoids narration, instead using music from composer Tony Baker to score scenes of the makers at work, from the loom, furnace and kiln, to workshop and studio. As a flashback to the late 70s, facial hair, ceramics and wool abound.
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.
Subtitled ‘a conversation with my grandfather’, this animated short sees Joel Kefali (director of the music video for Lorde’s ‘Royal’) documenting memories of his Turkish 'Baba' arriving in 1951 Auckland. Sausage rolls, dances and the death penalty are animated via cut-out shapes, and scored to Baba’s colourful pidgin phrasing — “go to the hell!”. Noel Murray of US website The Dissolve praised the “ample artistry” of Kefali’s familial tribute. Baba was a part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute long films made for online release.
Ted Brown found cult cred in the late 80s with The Tunnellers, a band he started at age 17. The band won Most Promising Group at the 1988 NZ Music Awards, and in 1993 Brown scored a Tui for Most Promising Male Vocalist. Several singles for Trevor Reekie's Pagan label followed; Reekie later described Brown as a “monster singer”. The songs included La De Da's cover 'How is the Air Up there', under the moniker Ted Brown and the Italians. These days Brown is based in Los Angeles — where his music tends towards more of a country sound. Brown sometimes collaborates with fellow Kiwi-born émigré Greg Johnson.
Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.