Marcus Lush goes "right up the guts" of the North Island from Wairarapa to Gisborne, in this episode of his award-winning romance with New Zealand's railways. He meets railcar restorers and recounts the murders by rail porter Rowland Edwards in 1884. Particular praise is reserved for the "spectacular and beautiful" Napier to Gisborne line (now mothballed) with its viaducts at Mohaka and Kopuawhara. The latter is on the site of a flash flood that killed 21 workers in 1938; it inspires an idiosyncratic Lush demonstration of Aotearoa's then 10 worst disasters.
Tony Barry's gravel voice won Kiwi fame when he starred in 1981 hit Goodbye Pork Pie. By then he already had 30 plus screen credits — including cult 70s sitcom Buck House, and the anarchic Blerta TV series. Barry's busy acting career continues both in his native Australia, and New Zealand. In 2010 he won a Qantas Best Actor Award for his starring role in Gaylene Preston's war tale Home by Christmas.
Georgina Beyer was the first transgendered person in the world to be elected to national office. Co-directed by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells, this internationally lauded documentary, tells the story of Beyer's extraordinary, inspiring journey from sex worker to member of Parliament for rural Wairarapa, and handshakes with the Queen. Born George Bertrand, Beyer grew up on a Taranaki farm, before spreading her wings on Auckland's cabaret circuit. Subsequent events led her to the town of Carterton, where she became involved in local body, and then national politics.
Tama Poata's wide-ranging contributions to our culture can be glimpsed through his appearances on-screen: from campaigns for Māori land rights (in 1975 doco Te Matakite O Aotearoa) and against the Springbok tour (Patu!), to his many acting roles. He also directed documentaries and wrote landmark 1987 movie Ngati, the first feature written (and directed) by Māori.
Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), the matriarch of a Fijian family in Auckland, feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. She demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast, at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren reluctantly turn up, but tiffs spin things into chaos and she calls the whole thing off. Based on his second play, this love letter to the suburb of Mt Roskill marked the first film for director Toa Fraser (Dean Spanley). It screened at many festivals internationally, and won the 2006 World Cinema audience award at American festival Sundance.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
Raised in Taranaki with seven siblings and roughly as many books, Anthony McCarten went on to co-write global stage hit Ladies Night. In 1998 he made his directorial debut with a movie of his play Via Satellite, followed later by Show of Hands. In 2015 he won two BAFTA awards after writing Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody followed.
New Zealand’s first left-wing documentary filmmaker, Cecil Holmes achieved notoriety in the late 1940s through the highly publicised exposure of his communist activity as a Public Service Association (PSA) delegate in the National Film Unit. He went on to become a significant film director in Australia.Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-023573; F (detail)
A journeyman actor for many years, Peter McCauley is a familiar face on both sides of the Tasman, with a long string of roles in film and television. His gruff, craggy image belies a capacity for sensitivity, and his rich sonorous voice has flattered many a script over the years.
Brian Edwards began making his reputation in the late 60s as one of the country's toughest television interviewers. In 1971 an Edwards interview on current affairs show Gallery famously helped end an ongoing post office dispute. He went on to present a host of interview-based shows, and played a big hand in creating longrunning consumer rights show Fair Go.