One morning, as kids are stealing apples from an old man’s orchard high above a seaside town, an earthquake hits. No one is hurt, and the townsfolk are non-plussed, but the old man is agitated: he alone is aware of the imminent tsunami and tries to warn the village. Based on a classic Japanese fable, The Orchard was made by one-man band Bob Stenhouse, who had been nominated for an Academy Award the previous decade for pioneer tale The Frog, The Dog and The Devil. Fans of the animator will recognise the lush, luminous hand-drawn style.
This episode of Koha is an examination of the Māori feature film industry, from the pioneers of the silent era up to feature film Mauri. Reflection on international screenings of groundbreaking feature Ngati frames interviews with Witarina Harris, Ramai Hayward, Barry Barclay, Wi Kuki Kaa and Merata Mita. Barclay talks of the importance of Māori telling Māori stories. “We’ve seen heaps of pictures of cowboys and Indians eh, but they’re always made by the cowboys.” Includes footage of The Devil’s Pit, Rewi's Last Stand, Ngati, The Governor, and Mauri.
This cult late-night TV2 series was a bawdy bogan Kiwi variety show, mixing sacrilege, beer-fuelled hijinks and Jackass-like stunts. Created by Chris Stapp and Matt Heath, it centred around a mock live TV show, with music from house band Deja Voodoo. Characters such as "retarded South Island mechanic" Spanners Watson featured in BSA-baiting segments like 'Randy Campbell's Extreme Stunts' (fodder for film The Devil Dared Me To) and 'Cunstables'. This first series also screened on MTV2 in Europe and Channel V in Australia. A second series screened on C4 in 2008.
"I get around. I know everything. Except your name." Kevin Smith made his television debut (in a speaking part) on this episode from the third series of Gloss, playing smirking DJ and man-about-town Damien Vermeer. Keen to rise above his working class origins, the character sets his sights on rich brat Chelsea Redfern within moments of meeting her. Smith left work at Christchurch's Court theatre for the role, when the decision was made to up the show's male quotient. Mikey Havoc also appears in this scene, as a member of his real-life band Push Push.
In 1983, director Geoff Murphy stormed out of the scrub of the nascent Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great New Zealand colonial epic. Set during the New Zealand Wars, this tale of a Māori leader (Anzac Wallace) and his bloody path to redress 'imbalance' became the second local film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and the second biggest local hit to that date (after Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie). A producer-driven recut was later shown in the United States. This 2013 redux offers Utu “enhanced and restored”.
Gloss was a popular Kiwi television drama series made by TVNZ that screened in the late 80s; it combined a wealthy family, the Redferns, with a lucrative high-fashion magazine business. Yuppies, shoulder-pads and méthode champenoise abound in this cult "glamour soap". New Zealanders wanted to see themselves as less bottom of the world and more "here we come and we are sailing" (as the infamous Cup campaign song warbled), and Gloss was just what the era demanded.
This fondly-remembered Pictorial Parade plunges down the famously steep grade of the Denniston Incline. The cable railway was the key means of transporting ‘black gold’ from the isolated Denniston Plateau to Westport. The engineering marvel fell 518 metres over just 1670 metres. It brought down 13 million tonnes of coal and many hardy families, despite notorious brake failures. This film was made just before the mine and railway ceased operating, as “old king coal” was supplanted by oil. Director Hugh Macdonald writes about making it, and a companion film, here.
It's the 1870s, and Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace) is fed up by brutal land grabs. He leads a bloody rebellion against the colonial Government, provoking threatened frontiersmen, disgruntled natives, lusty wahine, bible-bashing priests, and kupapa alike to consider the nature of ‘utu’ (retribution). Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael raved about Geoff Murphy’s ambitious follow up to Goodbye Pork Pie: “[He] has an instinct for popular entertainment. He has a deracinated kind of hip lyricism. And they fuse quite miraculously in this epic ...”
Bob Stenhouse, the first Kiwi animator to be nominated for an Academy Award, spent 12 years working for state television. After joining the Government’s National Film Unit in 1980, he made Oscar-nominated short The Frog, The Dog and the Devil. Stenhouse’s later films have included several Joy Cowley short stories, plus award-winning short The Orchard, a Japanese fable adapted to a New Zealand setting.
Leanne Saunders’ eye for talent has resulted in producer credits on six features: box office hits Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Born to Dance, Nazi horror The Devil’s Rock, and dramas Desert, The Weight of Elephants and Christmas. She also executive produced a run of successful shorts. In 2016 Saunders was appointed Head of Production and Development at the NZ Film Commission.