In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
In this 2001 documentary, popular columnist Joe Bennett goes behind the scenes of the “sausage factory” of Kiwi politics in Wellington – from The Beehive to The Green Parrot Cafe. Exploring the machinations of power in New Zealand, Bennett meets press secretaries, lobbyists, and spin doctors, from Helen Clark’s Chief of Staff Heather Simpson to press gallery reporter Barry Soper. The documentary marked a further collaboration between director Richard Riddiford and Bennett, after Jafas, where Bennett compared Auckland and Aotearoa's views of each other.
As part of the radical 80s neoliberal reform of the public and corporate sector in New Zealand, many government-run assets were turned into state owned enterprises; some were sold off to foreign buyers. Screening on TV3, this 1991 film, written by Metro columnist Bruce Jesson, examines the controversial programme by asking “who owns this country and who controls it?”. Those answering range from businesspeople to politicians, academics, journalists, vox pops and critics of the ‘cashing-in’, from the Hamilton Jet family to UK environmentalist Teddy Goldsmith.
In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
This second episode of the three-part series following British MP Austin Mitchell’s return to the country where he began his career in (as a broadcaster and author of 1972 book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise) sees a focus on politics. The former Canterbury University political scientist gives a potted political history, from the roots of a conservative Kiwi political mien to the radical changes wrought by Lange’s 80s Labour government and the rise of women ‘on the hill’. Finally he considers tourism, Treaty settlements and the aspirations of Māori.
Family, friends and former foe joined Helen Clark before the cameras for this TV3 documentary, which charts her journey from Vietnam protestor through low-polling Labour Party leader, to long-reigning PM and the UN. In this excerpt, Clark and biographer Denis Welch recall how after becoming opposition leader, Clark was advised to make various changes to her hairstyle and presentation. Featuring appearances by John Key, Don Brash and media-shy husband Peter Davis, the two-part doco was helmed by Dan Salmon and artist/director Claudia Pond Eyley.
The series Pounamu focused on the lives and deeds of Māori who played vital roles in the history of Aotearoa, including Te Kooti, Te Puea, Te Whiti, Āpirana Ngata, Guide Rangi and others. Made by the Māori Programmes Department of TVNZ, this episode features a re-enactment of part of the life of Prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana (1873 - 1939). Ratana was a key influence in Māori politics and religion. For years virtually all Māori MPs were followers of the Ratana faith and supported the Labour Party on his instruction. The influence of Rātana remains strong.
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.