Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. Showing sheepdog trials from around the country, A Dog’s Show ran from 1977 to 1992. In each trial a farmer, armed with an array of whistles and commands, instructed a sheepdog to wrangle a flock of recalcitrant sheep along a course or into a pen while the bearded, sagacious, Swannie-clad John Gordon provided the commentary. Trivia: the opening tune is a version of the Statler Brothers song ‘Flowers on the Wall’, also used in movie Pulp Fiction.
This documentary questions New Zealand’s involvement in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance. The examination of contemporary intelligence gathering takes in NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, entrepreneur-in-exile Kim Dotcom, and NZ Prime Minister John Key. It is framed around the 2008 sabotage of a Blenheim spy station by a priest, a teacher and a farmer: the 'Waihopai three' cut open a plastic dome protecting a satellite dish, in protest at the base’s role in the US-led 'War on Terror'. Directors Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones made 2011 terror raids documentary Operation 8.
In this fifth season episode of Māori Television’s long-running hunting show, presenter Howie Morrison Junior heads to the Central North Island’s Rangitikei region. First Howie pulls on the moleskins and tweeds and goes shooting at Rathmoy for pheasant. Then it’s off to Whio Lodge with Dan Steele, where they try to source the main ingredient in goat curry, throw axes, meet cave wētā and whistle up the lodge’s namesake. Howie also meets trapper Leon Stratford, helping protect whio and kiwi. Adam Rowbotham's tip of the week is bacon and eggs cooked in a brown paper bag.
This best of special culls history and highlights from 40 seasons of the longest running show on NZ television. Farming, forestry and fishing are all on the roster, but this edition is as much about observing people and the land. There is footage of high country musters, helicopter deer capture, floods and blizzards, as well as radio-controlled dogs and mice farmers. Longtime Country Calendar figures like John Gordon and Tony Trotter share their memories, and the show sets out to catch up again with some of the colourful New Zealanders that have featured on screen.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.
Armagan Ballantyne made her feature film debut in 2009 with The Strength of Water, the tale of two children in an isolated coastal town. The Kiwi-German co-production was invited to festivals in Berlin, Rotterdam and Auckland. After winning an award for an Emma Paki music video back in 1996, Ballantyne studied film in Sydney and Prague. Her CV includes commercials, episodes of acclaimed children's show Being Eve, and award-winning short films (Whistle She Rolls). In 2008 she was one of 22 filmmakers from around the globe selected to make a short for United Nations anthology film Stories on Human Rights.
Christchurch-raised Anna Cottrell is a prolific documentary maker, with a keen interest in the stories that people tell. Her work ranges widely, from documentaries on immigrants (An Immigrant Nation) and family (Other People's Children), to five seasons of the bite-sized Great War Stories. Cottrell launched her company AC Productions in 2001.
Globetrotting director Dean Cornish's credit reel ranges from Intrepid Journeys to bold buildings, Extreme Tribes to Rachel Hunter, sex trafficking to This Town. Trained at Christchurch's NZ Broadcasting School, Cornish has produced films in more than 90 countries and crafted a reputation as a go-to guy for travel stories. He shared a Best Director gong at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards for Making Tracks.
Kathleen Mantel began directing television documentaries in the late 90s. Since then she has won awards in the United States for Kiwi-made docos on problem gambling (It's Not a Game), teenage pregnancy (KIDS) and the Exclusive Brethren (Leaving the Exclusive Brethren). In 2012 her doco The Green Chain won the NZ Television Award for Best Popular Documentary.