Someone Else’s Country looks critically at the radical economic changes implemented by the 1984 Labour Government - where privatisation of state assets was part of a wider agenda that sought to remake New Zealand as a model free market state. The trickle-down ‘Rogernomics’ rhetoric warned of no gain without pain, and here the theory is counterpointed by the social effects (redundant workers, Post Office closures). Made by Alister Barry in 1996 when the effects were raw, the film draws extensively on archive footage and interviews with key “witnesses to history”.
This episode of the Kiwi social history series explores the importance of the ‘cradle to grave' beliefs about education, health and social welfare that have underpinned NZ governance since the 1930s. But radical reforms toward the end of the 20th century were more focused on individual opportunity than the wider social contract. Excerpts here use influential unionist James ‘Big Jim’ Roberts and generations of his family to chart social change. Written by feminist Sandra Coney, this episode also provides an overview of the monumental change in the lives of women.
Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ's radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon's reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform. Revolution won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.
After a young woman (Denise Maunder) falls pregnant, she decides to go against the tide of advice from her family and unsympathetic welfare authorities by keeping her baby. Misery and hardship ensues. Director Paul Maunder brought kitchen sink drama to NZ television with this controversial National Film Unit production. The story can claim to have effected social change, stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers. Keep an eye out for a young Paul Holmes as a wannabe lothario. Maunder writes about making it in this piece. Costa Botes writes about it here.
This 38 episode series revolved around the ups and downs of a community house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten). The series was devised by Liddy Holloway to meet a network call for an Eastenders-style drama that might tackle social issue storylines. It was the first drama series to put a Māori whānau (the Mitchells) at its centre. Despite being well-reviewed, it was perhaps the last gasp of Avalon-produced uncompromisingly local drama (satirised as the ‘Wellington style’), before TV production largely shifted to Auckland to face up to commercial pressures.
This 1967 NFU instructional film demonstrates breathing exercises developed by Bernice ‘Bunny’ Thompson, to help children suffering from asthma and bronchitis. The film was based on the pioneering physiotherapist's 1963 book of the same name. Director Frank Chilton won renown for his documentaries dealing with the health and welfare needs of children. Asthma and Your Child was commissioned by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation, and was an early example of a privately-funded socially-useful film. The animation of respiratory processes is by Morrow Productions.
A veteran figure in Māori broadcasting, Waihoroi Shortland has also been an actor (Rain of the Children, Boy), scriptwriter (Crooked Earth) and Māori advisor (The Piano). In 2003 he won the NZ Film Award for Best Actor, after playing Shylock in movie The Māori Merchant of Venice. In 2015 he became the first chair of Te Mātāwai, the organisation charged with revitalising te reo on behalf of Māori.
Editor and director Dell King’s plans to be a filmmaker faced a challenge when she discovered that the Government’s National Film Unit had closed its doors to women directors. Instead King began her long screen career as a negative cutter, and later worked as editor or sound editor on a run of documentaries and features, including the classics Ngati and Vigil.
Impressed by untapped Polynesian talent, Levin-based filmmaker collaborated on a trio of pioneering films that put young Polynesians and Māori centre-frame: Kingi's Story, Kingpin, and award-winning telemovie Mark II. Walker passed away in late 2004.
English born and raised, Rod Vaughan began writing for Kiwi newspapers after graduating in journalism from Wellington Polytechnic. Then he began 35 years at state broadcaster BCNZ, reporting for current affairs and primetime news, and famously facing off against one-time NZ Party leader Bob Jones. Afer 11 years with TV3's 60 Minutes, Vaughan published autobiography Bloodied But Not Beaten in 2012.