"So the Queen comes to New Zealand. 12,000 miles from the motherland she is not among strangers. She has come to her New Zealand home." When the Queen and Prince Philip began the first tour of NZ by a reigning monarch (soon after her coronation), a National Film Unit crew followed the journey, before condensing 40 days and 46 stops into a mere 25 minutes. Along the way the newly crowned Queen wears her coronation gown to open Parliament, and witnesses geysers, long-jumpers, Māori canoes, plus masses of enthused Dunedinites refusing to keep behind the barrier.
Over ten episodes, Ghost Hunt crisscrossed Aotearoa on a mission to find ghosts — or at least signs they might have been in the building. Presenters Carolyn Taylor (What Now?), actor Michael Hallows and actor/director Brad Hills visited locations with a reputation for hauntings, usually arriving after dark. The locales included Dunedin's Larnach Castle, Waitomo Caves Hotel, and the Fortune and St James Theatre — plus cemeteries and abandoned psychiatric hospitals. The 2006 Screentime show is not to be confused with the anime series which premiered in Japan the same year.
This 1949 NFU film is a whistle-stop tour of Aotearoa that, per the title, takes in the full gamut of the scenic wonderland. Splendidly filmed in Kodachrome, there are lakes (Tutira, Manapouri, Te Anau, Wakatipu), caves (Waitomo), mountains (Cook/Aoraki, Egmont/Taranaki) and forests and farms aplenty, with the occasional city sojourn and an obligatory ferry shot. In the narration indefatigable nature is harnessed for man’s needs and appreciation. Of note is a sequence on gum-collector Nicholas Yakas, who shows impressive agility as he scales a giant kauri.
This 2002 documentary explores the stories behind one of Aotearoa’s most beloved songs: ‘Pokarekare Ana’. Claims for the authorship of the waiata aroha are examined, and Kiwis famous and lesser known reflect on the song’s place in the culture. Directed by Chas Toogood, the doco features classic performances: from St Joseph’s Girls’ Choir singing in the Waitomo Caves in 1960, to Inia Te Wiata going low in English, Kiri Te Kanawa soaring in concert, Hinewehi Mohi enlisting a 30,000 strong league crowd as backing singers, and sailing away in a 1987 America’s Cup campaign song.
Although generally regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer, Brian Brake also worked in motion pictures, as both director and cinematographer. At the Government's National Film Unit he directed the first Kiwi film nominated for an Academy Award (Snows of Aorangi). Later he worked for prestigious photo agency Magnum, and featured in photo journals Life and National Geographic.
Lynton Diggle spent almost 25 years working as a director and cameraman for the government's National Film Unit, before launching his own company. Along the way, he filmed in Antarctica and the waters of Lake Taupō, captured major salvage operations at sea, and worked alongside legendary director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia). Diggle passed away on 23 November 2018.
Geoff Dixon began making commercials in the 70s — the decade he launched legendary ad company Silverscreen Productions, whose clients included Cadbury, Toyota, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. Ranging across New Zealand and beyond, his work includes iconic images of South Island back roads, Barry Crump crashing utes through the bush, and Michael Hurst singing a war cry for the Kiwi bloke.
Ron Skelley spent 36 years with the National Film Unit’s sound department, contributing to the soundtracks of Weekly Review, Pictorial Parade, and many other NFU and independent films. He started at the NFU in 1949, and was in charge of the sound department from 1977 until his retirement in 1985. Skelley died in March 1992. Image Credit: Photo from The Evening Post, courtesy of Fairfax Media
Cyril Morton's career began in the 1920s, during New Zealand's first sustained burst of filmmaking. Morton helped create Government filmmaking body the National Film Unit. The former cameraman was later second-in-command at the Unit for 13 years, until retiring in 1963. Morton passed away in 1986.
Geoffrey Scott, MBE and OBE, oversaw the Government's National Film Unit for over 20 years, until his retirement in 1973. Scott began his film career playing piano over silent movies. During his command of the unit, the organisation won 141 awards.