Pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves on 4 December 1966 when Radio Hauraki broadcast from the Colville Channel aboard the vessel Tiri. Made by Sally Aitken, this film reunited the original pirates for the first time in 30 years to recall their battle to bring rock’n’roll to the youth of NZ. Featuring rare archive footage, the tale of radio rebels, conservative stooges, stoners, ship-wrecks and lost-at-sea DJs was originally made as a student film. It was bought by TVNZ and screened in primetime to praise: “Top of the dial, top of the class” (Greg Dixon, NZ Herald).
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."
Clearly made by people with a love of old school Hollywood horror, So Free dredges up a classic monster squad which includes Dracula, 'Frankristein', The 'Wülf Man', and a creature born in a black lagoon— all hell bent on distressing the damsel (Arem Steel). With lovingly-detailed set-pieces and effects, the clip looks tremendous. And after underwater and night shoots in midwinter Wellington, it was fortunate to be supported by a dedicated cast and crew (including band members playing the various monsters).
A mainstay on cinema and TV screens for over 20 years, this commercial — reputedly NZ’s longest-running — made Kiwis feel as if the UK-born hokey pokey treasure was ‘ours’. Directed by Tony Williams, the madcap romp features a bevy of 70s acting talent caught up in chaos, after outlaws start a free for all fight for a chest of Crunchie bars. A connection with Martin Scorsese’s editor allowed access to footage from old Westerns, while the immortal tune is by Murray Grindlay. Williams overspent his meagre budget, and a lawn mower given to him as a thank you ended up his fee.
In Samoan-born director Sima Urale's first feature, two mothers from very different Aotearoa cultures find the courage to confront the secrets of the past, in order to set their sons free. Hard-working Lorna runs an old-fashioned cake shop and lives with her unemployed son. For Anita, star of an Indian cooking show, things come to a head when her son decides to meet her estranged sister Tara, who runs a no-frills curry house. Apron Strings debuted in the Discovery Section of the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. It won four Qantas awards, including for actors Jennifer Ludlam and Scott Wills.
Christchurch-born artist Len Lye (1901 - 1980) was an internationally renowned modernist filmmaker and kinetic sculptor. Recognised as a front-running innovator in setting music to film, e.g. Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1939) and Free Radicals (1958), he travelled extensively in the South Pacific in the 1920s, then moved to London. There Lye began making films for the GPO Film Unit, including A Colour Box (1935), one of the earliest direct films. In 1950 he became a US ctizen. His clips were posthumously programmed on MTV Europe; a retrospective of Lye's work screened at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2000.
Is it a boy? Is it a girl? What if it’s neither? This award-winning documentary explores the world of the intersexed (formerly known as hermaphrodites) — those born with any one of 30 conditions that make their gender ambiguous. Presenter Mani Bruce Mitchell — New Zealand’s first ‘out’ intersex person — and director Grant Lahood had to travel overseas to find interviewees who would talk freely. They discuss living in a society with a binary view of gender which, at best, has made them all but invisible; and, at worst, has subjected many to damaging “corrective” surgery.
Every year around Christmas time, the Auckland Domain is lit up for a star-filled night of free Christmas celebrations. Hosted by Jay Laga’aia, this 2000 edition of the concert has “more than 300,000 people” gathered for an evening of songs, carols and fireworks. Kicking off with a Christmas rap from Anthony Ray Parker and kids, the celebrations go long into the night. Stepping up to the mic are everyone from Tina Cross, Frankie Stevens and Ainslie Allen, to the cast of Shortland Street and Mai Time. The evening is capped off with a fireworks display and the arrival of Santa Claus.
In the late 1970s a like-minded group of young people decided to live together communally on a block of land in the Coromandel, and the Mahana community was born. In this Vice documentary Arthur Van Resseghem, the last member of that original group, guides the camera around the dilapidated sites of "vandalised" commune houses. Van Resseghem believes the other residents have abandoned Mahana's original vision — but it seems he has become an outlier in the community, with other residents claiming 'undesirable' people were being promised free homes.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the multi-talented Dave Fraser brought his multiple musical talents to score everything from features and National Film Unit documentaries to television dramas and commercials. Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-215042-F (Detail)