Benjamin (Matt Scheurich) lives at home with his Mum, but the 23-year-old dreams of escaping the nest for some overseas experience. Pondering the question ‘should I stay or should I go?’, he retreats to his studio to create intricate shoebox dioramas of his destinations. Meanwhile Mum plans an (unwanted) birthday party for him. Director Michelle Savill made the film as part of a Film Studies course at Wintec in Hamilton. The quirky take on the yearning to leave — and the fear of being left behind — was selected for 20 film festivals, including Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand.
In this full-length Intrepid Journey actor/director Katie Wolfe takes her "appalling sense of direction" to China, a country caught between old ways and new. Wolfe travels by plane, boat, cyclo and train, which she calls "the perfect way to travel". She does three days in the Blade Runner-like cityscapes of Shanghai, where she meets an 86-year-old dancer, and visits the Forbidden City of Beijing. Wolfe also heads up the Yangtze River, visiting ghostly cities and apartment blocks, drained of people by major dam construction — before stumbling upon a most effective way to haggle.
This full-length documentary looks at the grim reality of our fast-disappearing national symbol, and the efforts of people passionate about saving it. Remarkable facts about the evolutionary oddity are framed by the point that “the nation which laments that the moa was wiped out is committing the same crime against the kiwi”. The film raises the unsettling question: do we want the stoat or kiwi as our national icon? It also makes a compelling call to action to save a unique taonga, which could be extinct from the mainland in 20 years.
"My name is Mr Larry Woods and they call me Mr Sunshine." This 2016 Loading Doc offers a mini portrait of the colourful shoeshine man famous for spreading goodwill and cheer on Auckland’s streets. The documentary charts Wood’s journey from chauffeur-driven millionaire making headlines for his lush lifestyle, to street-working ambassador pushing the creed of “just being nice”. Directed by Eldon Booth in stylish monochrome, the documentary was shared by Atlantic and Aeon magazines and website Short of the Week, and screened at England's Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Composed of one-off episodes, each by a different director, First Hand was an opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers to try their hand at making documentaries. This instalment from director Alan Erson looks at ‘dusties’ — the men who collect Auckland’s rubbish. Their rewards and career pathways are considered, alongside the hard physical nature of the work. Just as important is what happens during time off. There are visits to local pub The Bellbird, and the café where they stop for cups of tea — plus sucker for punishment Manu heads to rugby league training.
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.
Occasional Heartland host Kerre Woodham visits the annual Easter races at Riverton in Southland. Riverton is New Zealand's second oldest town, and the close knit locals have a big passion for horse-racing. Woodham talks to owners, trainers (one of them at his freezing works job), jockeys and punters, as well as the judges of 'Best Dressed Lady at the Races', who are looking for a nice line in matching hats, bags, shoes and gloves. The documentary contains some good examples of the Southland rolled 'r' from some of the locals who are interviewed.
A man stands alone in a room, watched by unsmiling faces, before literally falling into the rest of the group. Young women dance in time, their shoes belting out a rhythm on a wooden floor. A strange ritual of falling and rising is played out on a fog-shrouded hill. In this beautifully-lensed dance film, director Warren Green and choreographer Megan Adams take a new approach to showcasing the talents of acting students from drama school Toi Whakaari. The shifting, syncopated soundtrack is by Hamish Walker and David Holmes of Kog Transmissions.
Apemen, Barbie dolls, and hairy shoes ... as this documentary demonstrates, hair turns up everywhere — or not, as one man's poignant and matter-of-fact testimony to the horrors of losing it demonstrates. Hair's co-director, artist Judy Darragh, uses her fascination with all-things hirsute as a springboard for wit, thought-provoking theories, and some unusual artwork. She also phones Welsh author Elaine Morgan, who believes our ancestors lost much of their hair thanks to a semi-aquatic past. Producer Fiona Copland joins Darragh as co-director.
With a chorus to do any football terrace proud, the final single from Th’ Dudes (featuring Dave Dobbyn, Peter Urlich and Ian Morris) became one of the great Kiwi drinking songs. It was actually written in Sydney to parody hard-drinking pub crowds; the lyrics namecheck Sydney landmarks (The Coogee, The Cross) and delights unavailable back home (Spanish shoes, falafel). Shot in Wellington's booze barn-like Cricketers’ Arms, the video showcases the excitement of the band’s live show, and offers a snapshot of bar culture in early 80s New Zealand.