Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
Before X Factor there was New Faces, before Masterchef ... Graham Kerr, before Country Calendar there was ... er, Country Calendar. This collection picks the screen gems from the decade that gave Kiwi pop culture, "miniskirts, teenagers — and television." Peter Sinclair, Sandy Edmonds, Howard Morrison, and Ray Columbus star. Do your mod's nod and C'mon!
Record label Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music, and with autonomous DIY, bottom-of-the-world creativity. This collection celebrates the label's ethos as manifested in the music videos. Selected by label founder Roger Shepherd: "A general style may have loosely evolved ... but it was simply due to limited budgets and correspondingly unlimited imaginations."
From the icons (Sky Tower, Otara Market, Rangitoto, The Bridge), celebs, clans and stereotypes (Jafas), to the streets (Queen St, K Road), and Super City suburbs (Ferndale, Mt Raskill, Morningside), this collection celebrates Auckland onscreen. Reel through the moods and the multicultural, metro, muggy charms of New Zealand’s largest city. In this backgrounder, No. 2 director Toa Fraser writes about Auckland as a place of myth, diversity and broken jaws.
The hay bales are out and the barn's a bustin' in these excerpts from popular Saturday night music show The Country Touch. There's a group singalong to 'Every Night When the Sun Goes Down', before jocular host Tex Morton (who became famous on both sides of the Tasman as the 'Yodelling Boundary Rider') steps in to introduce twins Carol and Kathleen from Milton, Otago. Morton delivers some choice Dad jokes before the duo sing 'Well Well Well'. Then duo Ken and Kay harmonise on a mournful 'When You Loved Me'.
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky visited Aotearoa in 1961 for a series of performances with New Zealand's National Orchestra. This co-production between the NFU and the NZ Broadcasting Service shows Stravinsky at the Wellington Town Hall, guiding the orchestra through the finale of his work, The Firebird Suite. Stravinsky has his own particular style of conducting: no baton, and emphatic hand and arm movements. The applause is rapturous. Stravinsky appears delighted with the occasion; the orchestra (later renamed the NZ Symphony Orchestra) shower him with flowers.
This National Film Unit documentary provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the various stages of 40s film production at the relatively nascent unit, from shoot to post production. It was made to be screened continuously (thus the ‘loop’ title) at exhibition theatrettes. There’s genial interaction among the cast and crew (see backgrounder for who they are). Directed by pioneer woman director Kathleen O’Brien, the filming took place at the unit’s Darlington Road studios in Wellington, close to where Weta Workshop and Park Road Post now operate in Miramar.
In the mid-1990s one of Peter Peryer's photographs caused a diplomatic stir. 'Dead Steer' depicted the bloated carcass of a cow on a lonely New Zealand roadside, and the then Agriculture Minister protested its inclusion in a German exhibition of Peryer's work. This documentary from prolific arts director Shirley Horrocks examines the life and career of this important New Zealand artist. Peryer was awarded an ONZM for his contribution to photography and in 2000 became one of five inaugural laureates of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. He died in November 2018.
This silent film from 1945 showcases the making of “to-day’s great drink” (beer!), at Dominion Breweries’ Waitemata Brewery in the Auckland suburb of Otahuhu. Post-war, beer consumption was about to boom, with DB set to meet the demand. The film extols automation throughout the production process (though humans are seen contributing to the craft). Beer was still being brewed on the Otahuhu site 70 years later. Made by pioneering commercial filmmaker Robert Steele, the 16mm silent film was likely made for screening at trade fairs or winter shows.