Across the Main Divide

Short Film, 1984 (Full Length)

"These mountains have always been a challenge. Now there's a new type of skier facing that challenge in a new way." Across the Main Divide follows NZ mountain guide Shaun Norman, US telemark skiing champ Whitney Thurlow and German skier Babette Bodenstein, as they cross the Southern Alps in free heel skis. Flown up the Tasman Glacier from Mount Cook, a 2,000m haul up to Graham Saddle is rewarded with sweet spring snow skiing and cheesecake at Alma Hut, before the tramp down to the West Coast. The doco screened worldwide and won awards at mountain film festivals.

Moa's Ark : Building the Ark

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

‘Moa's Ark' set sail 80 million years ago. David Bellamy becomes an ancient mariner and retraces the voyage of the islands of New Zealand (using contemporary science as his guide). In this first episode he finds out why New Zealand is called the Shaky Isles, gets face to face with the "living fossil" the tuatara, is inspired by meat pies, and discovers geography as he competes in the annual Coast to Coast race over the Southern Alps — with directional and gorse eradication aid coming from legendary race organiser Robin Judkins.

It Helps to Be Mad

Short Film, 1966 (Full Length)

A series of comical graphics introduce this 1966 National Film Unit diversion, in a style animator Terry Gilliam would soon make famous via British comedy shows Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python's Flying Circus. The film itself follows a reporter (Michael Woolf) on a jaunt with an international 'veteran car rally' through Southern Lakes scenery, trying to make sense of it all. As he says, "there don’t seem to be any rules to this vintage motoring business". Directed by John King, the playful film features a dubbed soundtrack, complete with sheep baas and car horn sound effects.

Country Calendar - Tim Wallis

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

"Another adventure with Tim" is how one of Tim Wallis’ friends wryly puts it. The "adventure" came about when Wallis combined an “expensive toy”, and a noxious pest: using helicopters to recover deer shot by hunters in inaccessible South Island backblocks. Next deer were captured alive, to stock deer farms; a multi-million dollar industry was born. At the peak of his operations, Wallis had a fleet of 35 helicopters. The aerial shots in and around Milford Sound are magnificent. The stories he tells of his many crashes are 'she'll be right' Boy's Own classics.

Bidibidi - First Episode

Television, 1990 (Full Length Episode)

Like the eponymous native plant this children's puppet programme stuck to the socks of many kiwis of a certain vintage. Produced in Dunedin by TVNZ's Natural History Unit (now NHNZ), Bidibidi followed the adventures of a sheep on a South Island station for two series. Adapted from the children's book by Gavin Bishop, the show interspersed puppet scenes and musical numbers with actual wildlife footage. This first episode sees Bidibidi chasing a rainbow with advice from Stella the kea; includes beautifully shot images of a menagerie of native birds.

Weekly Review No. 416 - Prelude to Aspiring

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

Prelude to Aspiring was the first National Film Unit title directed by legendary photographer Brian Brake, soon after he joined the Unit in 1948. It follows a group of climbers up the Matukituki Valley, west of Wanaka, towards Mt Aspiring for the opening of a new hut and a trudge through snow to resurrect a flattened shelter high up Mt French. The autumn alpine scenery is breathtaking even in black and white, and the film perfectly performs its role as one of a series of promotional ‘documentaries' made by the NFU.

Snows of Aorangi

Short Film, 1955 (Full Length)

Shot by photographer Brian Brake as a NFU tourism promo, Snows of Aorangi surveys New Zealand's mountain landscapes. Brake captures stunning imagery: ethereal ice forests, lightning storms, volcanic craters, glaciers, avalanches, kea. Three skiers are mesmerising as they scythe downhill from Almer Hut: "for a little while they've given themselves to the rhythm of sky and earth" runs the James K Baxter-scripted narration. It was the first NZ film to compete for an Oscar, nominated in the Best Short Subject (Live Action) category in 1959.

Weekly Review No. 267 - Winter Sports at Mount Cook

Short Film, 1946 (Full Length)

This jaunty early National Film Unit film promotes the alpine scenery of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and its recreational opportunities. It includes slalom at the 1946 New Zealand ski champs, ice-skating at Lake Tekapo, comic pratfalls in the snow, a mass snow-fight and ... landscape painting. Dancing at the Hermitage Hotel is "a good way to loosen the muscles after skiing". As well as human interest, the film features the expected majestic mountains, glaciers, and avalanches, as well as curious kea at Ball Hut, and amusing dogs in snow-glasses.

Passport to Pleasure

Short Film, 1958 (Full Length)

One of the last films shot by longtime cameraman Bert Bridgman before his death, this 1958 promotional film follows an American tourist with a licence to fish in New Zealand, her “passport to pleasure”. Narrated by Pulitzer-Prize winning writer and conservationist Louis Bromfield, the film quotes liberally from English 'father of fishing' Izaak Walton, as the “gal from the States” is given fly fishing instruction. The life cycle of trout is shown, and the film — directed by onetime war correspondent Ron McIntyre — ends with a contest of wits between wily angler and trout. 

The Red Checkers

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

This 1985 TVNZ documentary follows the recruitment of three new pilots into the Red Checkers acrobatic flying squadron of the Royal NZ Air Force. The pilots train to fly formations, loops and low level passes. There are close calls, and interviews with pilots and their spouses. What does it take to be a Kiwi Top Gun? Squadron leader (and future NZ Defence Force chief) Bruce Ferguson: "he's got to have confidence in himself, his abilities and to be a wee bit of a showman." The documentary marked one of the earliest directing credits for Emmy Award-winner Mike Single.