In 1987 producer and director Geoff Steven spent six months filming in the United States in a quest to understand what makes such a powerful and influential nation tick. Steven’s intention was to circumvent media stereotypes and the “facades set up by politicians and officials” and to talk to Americans from all walks of life and socio-economic groups. The result was this six part series fronted by journalist and author Gordon McLauchlan who introduces each episode and links the interviews with everyday people shot in their homes, factories and offices.
Feature documentary In the Zone tells the story of American Terrance Wallace. In 2011 he launched The InZone Project; its aim was to transform the lives of disadvantaged Māori and Pasifika teens by moving them into supportive homes, in zones that enable them to receive opportunities at top Auckland schools like Auckland Grammar. Director Robyn Paterson (Finding Mercy) follows Wallace as he attempts to take the programme back to his hometown of Chicago. Paterson developed the project after winning a 2015 pitching competition at Kiwi documentary festival Doc Edge.
The “disappearance” of American tourist Milton Harris was one of NZ’s most bizarre insurance frauds. Barrister and QC Mike Bungay examines the case over two episodes, in his series exploring notable criminal investigations. This second part reveals how Harris staged his apparent loss at sea, the new life he built for himself in rural West Auckland and the way his tangled deception came undone (complete with a suspected parcel bomb and postal fraud). It also features an in-flight interview with Harris, shot during his trip home following deportation.
In this episode of his US TV odyssey director Geoff Steven reaches the Deep South. In Memphis, jailer WC Watson introduces his gospel singing family and there are rapturous scenes as they perform at their Beale Street church. In New Orleans, a youth court judge and her lawyer husband attempt to balance jobs and social work with raising their own children. The flipside is provided by descendants of slave owners looking for ways to hold on to their mansions now that the plantations that once supported them have gone.
Pacific 3-2-1-Zero is a record of a performance of the eponymous work by renowned percussion group From Scratch. The work was devised in 1981 as a protest against nuclear testing and waste dumping in the Pacific. Ring-leader Phil Dadson, his players and their instruments — from whirling PVC pipes to biscuit tin lids — are arranged in the shape of the peace symbol. From Scratch's rhythms are cut with footage and facts of nuclear testing by director Gregor Nicholas to make for a resonant statement. The film won the Grand Prix at Midem’s 1994 Visual Music Awards.
More everyday Americans are encountered as this documentary series — fronted by Gordon McLauchlan — visits Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky to explore the Bible Belt touchstones of patriotism, mining, religion, guns and country music. Interviewees include a former miner and self confessed mountain man who collects guns and teaches scripture, a new wife and mother trying to settle into life in a smaller town, a truckie and aspiring musician who sees big rig drivers as the last cowboys, and a singer/songwriter looking for that elusive big break in Nashville.
This TV series which attempts to go beyond cliché and stereotype to find real Americans. Presenter Gordon McLaughlan starts at Ellis Island — where late 19th century immigration marked what he calls the beginning of modern America. Interview subjects include a Jesuit priest running a home for street kids in North Bronx, a construction company vice-president of Italian descent, an Ohio auto worker watching on as the rust belt encroaches on industry, and a retired submarine captain who is master of a replica of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock.
The “disappearance” of American tourist Milton Harris became one of New Zealand’s most bizarre insurance frauds. Barrister and QC Mike Bungay examines this curious case over two episodes from his series exploring notable criminal investigations. Part one focuses on Harris’ apparent loss overboard from the Cook Strait ferry and strange events during his trip to NZ which aroused the suspicions of Lloyds, who were facing a multi-million dollar claim. Police officers recall the arrest for shoplifting which undid Harris, and his peculiar behaviour in custody.
At any one time between mid 1942 and mid 1944, between 15,000 and 45,000 US servicemen were camped in NZ preparing for, and recovering from, war in the Pacific. The marines brought colour and drama to the austerity of home front life. Fifty years later this TV documentary used interviews, reenactments and archive material to explore the “American invasion”. Sonja Davies recalls a Wellington street fight kicked off by a racist insult directed at Māori, and her wartime pregnancy and romance (1,500 marriages ensued from “when the Americans were here”).
Rainbow-coloured goats and a herd of children on horseback feature in this 1965 Australian movie. Expat Kiwi producer Roger Mirams called on a stable of actors from his TV work for this part-musical romp, about a group of youngsters who discover a way to change the colour of animal wool. The cast includes Grease's Olivia Newton-John (in her screen debut) and Howard Morrison (as a shearer who teaches the kids a Māori stick game). After co-founding Kiwi production company Pacific Films, Mirams had left Aotearoa in 1957 to launch a short-lived Australian arm of Pacific.