Aspiring

Short Film, 1972 (Full Length)

This 1972 NFU documentary follows three climbers (Hugh Canard, Neil Hamilton and pioneering guide Bruce Jenkinson) on an ascent of Mt Aspiring. Directed and photographed by Grant Foster (Land of Birds), the beautifully-shot short film heads up country in the Land Rover. Rivers are crossed in the sun, then the climbers rope up and get the pick axes out. It’s tea, food and harmonica in the hut, then a pre-dawn start (“hell it’s cold!”) before cutting steps and leaping crevasses up the “matterhorn of the south”. The film screened on PBS in the United States.

Hillary: A View from the Top - The Early Years

Television, 1997 (Excerpts)

These excerpts from part one of Tom Scott’s award-winning series on the life of Edmund Hillary look at his early years. Ed reflects on his youth as a gangly Auckland Grammar student, beekeeping, and a school trip to Ruapehu that sparked a “fiery enthusiasm” for alpine adventure. Coupled with a young man’s frustration with his “miserable, uninteresting life”, this passion for the hills soon led to a solo ascent of Mount Tapue-o-Uenuku as an RNZAF cadet — famously climbed on a weekend’s leave from Woodbourne base— and a 1947 ascent of Mount Cook, with his mentor Harry Ayres.

Turn of the Century

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

This documentary comprehensively traces the history of skiing and winter sports in New Zealand. From Mannering and Dixon, who used homemade skis in an almost-successful ascent of Mt Cook and the hut-building pioneers of recreational ski clubs in their pre-Gore-tex garb, to commercial ski fields and lifts, superb archive footage shows the advances. New Zealand teams at the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952 and Sarajevo 32 years later had come some way from the days when carrier pigeons were used to report snow conditions from Canterbury's ski fields to Christchurch.

Aspiring

Television, 2006 (Excerpts)

This documentary revisits six eventful weeks in 1949. Led by cameraman Brian Brake, an all-star art team  James K Baxter as scriptwriter, composer Douglas Lilburn and painter John Drawbridge (all under 30; Drawbridge was 19)  attempt to make a 'cinematic poem' about an ascent of Mt Aspiring. Baxter's notes on the trip evolved into his poem In the Matukituki Valley. Aspiring features a lost script, Drawbridge's memories (he recalls storyboards for a snow cave light show here) and a surprise ending. View footage of the never-completed film after the excerpt.

First Hand - Paradise Lost

Television, 1992 (Full Length Episode)

Director Leanne Pooley heads to a struggling Hawke's Bay farm as part of a documentary series made by newbie filmmakers. The Hallgarths are selling up after years of financial difficulty at their 600 acre sheep farm, which has been in the family for three generations. Pooley interviews a sad yet optimistic Arthur and Helen Hallgarth as they prepare to leave, and on the day they depart. Within a year of filming this show, the family returned to farming on a small property nearby. Pooley later directed Topp Twins:Untouchable Girls and 3D Mt Everest ascent saga Beyond the Edge

Beyond the Edge

Film, 2013 (Trailer)

Beyond the Edge tells the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. Award-winning director Leanne Pooley (Untouchable Girls) mixes archival material with recreations of the English-led 1953 Everest expedition. 3D cameras were used to put viewers in the crampons of the climbers, and evoke the endurance and dangers faced as they ventured to the top of the world. Beyond the Edge debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, where it was one of two runner-ups for the People’s Choice Documentary Award. 

From the Ocean to the Sky

Film, 1979 (Excerpts)

This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows a 1977 expedition where Sir Edmund Hillary and crew (including son Peter) attempted to jet boat upriver from the mouth of the Ganges to its Himalayan heart, before making the first ascent of Akash Parbat. The adventure pilgrimage was a proof of concept for the Kiwi-invented boat, and a return to action for Ed after the death of his wife and daughter in a 1975 plane crash. The mission faces epic white water, altitude sickness and tigers. Director Michael Dillon revisited the trip for his 2019 big screen documentary Hillary: Ocean to Sky.

Magic Kiwis - Sir Edmund Hillary

Television, 1989 (Full Length Episode)

This episode from the first season of the show celebrating Kiwi heroes pays tribute to the exemplar: Sir Edmund Hillary. The greatest "damned good adventures" of Sir Ed's career (up to then) are bagged: his first peak (Mt Ollivier — reclimbed with son Peter here), trans-Antarctic by tractor, up the Ganges by jet-boat, school and hospital building in Nepal; and of course Everest, whose ascent is recreated with commentary from Hillary. Graeme Dingle provides reflection and presenter Neil Roberts has the last word: "[Sir Ed:] our own bold, bloody-minded magic Kiwi".

Mount Cook - Footsteps to the Sky

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

From Māori myth to climbing and photography, to gliding and paraponting around its peak, Aoraki-Mt Cook is vividly captured in all its moods in this award-winning NHNZ portrait. Filmed for the centenary of the first ascent of a mountain that has claimed over 100 lives, it follows mountaineers as they climb toward the summit, re-enacting Tom Fyfe's pioneering pre-crampon route. Climbers, including Edmund Hillary, reminisce about encounters with NZ's highest and most iconic peak; and Bruce Grant takes the quick way down: a vertiginous ski descent.

Series

Challenge

Television, 1976

Challenge was a series of six one-hour documentaries for Television One, exploring the theme of adventure. The challenges taken on by Kiwis included a pioneering hot air balloon flight over Aoraki-Mt Cook, an ascent of Kumbhakarna-Mt Jannu in Nepal led by Edmund Hillary and Graeme Dingle, a trek through Death Valley in Nevada, a transatlantic solo yacht race helmed by John Mansell, and a jet boat race in Mexico. The Mexican episode was directed by Challenge's executive producer, Peter Morritt. Other directors included Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Ian John.