Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
He learnt kapa haka as a child. He learnt to smoulder on Shortland Street. He punched a country in the guts with Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison has starred in Māori westerns, adventure romps, and cannibal comedies. In the backgrounder to this special collection, NZ On Screen editor Ian Pryor traces Temuera Morrison's journey from haka to Hollywood.
This National Film Unit dramatised doco was boosterism for postwar immigration to New Zealand. Three Brits (Margaret, Cassie, Harry) travel and settle down under and the film records their hopes, jobs (nurse, factory worker, engineer), challenges (accents, 'casual' work ethic, locals wary of the ‘Poms’) and adventures in the new country (tramping, skiing, milk bars, the races, romance). Partaking in a glacier rescue raises Harry's spirits and assimilates him with the blokes. The film was released theatrically in the UK, and was scored by Douglas Lilburn.
The Stolen follows English migrant Charlotte Lockton (Alice Eve, from Star Trek: Into Darkness) as she sets out to track down her kidnapped baby in gold rush era 1860s New Zealand. En route she meets gamblers, hustlers, prostitutes and Māori warriors. Bringing the era to life are Scotsman Graham McTavish (The Hobbit), Brit James Davenport (as the romantic interest), Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O’Brien, Cohen Holloway and singer Stan Walker. Produced and originated by London-based Kiwi Emily Corcoran, the film was directed by Brit Niall Johnson (comedy Keeping Mum).
Frank Whitten won probably his biggest audience when 10 million Brits saw him play an outrageous bastard in this primetime melodrama. This first episode sees Ceci (Glaswegian actor Valerie Gogan) arriving from England hoping for a better life, and instead finding herself trapped on a rundown farm with a rapist, a bitter old man and a simpleton. NZ producers Lloyd Phillips and Rob Whitehouse won finance from TVNZ, Westpac and the UK's Central Television for the six-part mini-series, written by Brit Elizabeth Gowans. There were 118 speaking parts, most of them Kiwi.
Director Paul Murphy follows Second Hand Wedding with a romance featuring comedian Rhys Darby, songs by Queen and ... a duck. Darby plays heartbroken nice guy Doug: after a close encounter with a native duck (a paradise shelduck) with emotional problems, he enlists expert help from a sassy animal specialist (played by Brit Sally Hawkins, a Golden Globe-winner for feature Happy-Go-Lucky). True to rom-com form, love ensues ... eventually. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie called Love Birds “an endearingly funny, if sugar-coated local romantic comedy”.
The movie version of Margaret Mahy's first novel for young adults is still set in Christchurch, but the time period is now post-quake. Teenager Laura Chant (newcomer Erana James) encounters a very strange man (Brit actor Timothy Spall, from Mr Turner) and a boy with a secret. The coming of age fantasy has been a longtime passion project for husband and wife team Stuart McKenzie and Miranda Harcourt, who have worked to keep their version as "dark and scary" as the Carnegie Award-winning original. The cast also includes Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) and Lucy Lawless.
In this odd couple tale set in the American west, Cohen Holloway (Until Proven Innocent, Boy) plays an outlaw who abducts an upper class Brit. Calamity ensues when the hardman fails to have his wicked way with her. The self-funded film screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, winning praise from critic Leonard Maltin. While Utu took the Western genre and applied it to NZ's colonial history, Good for Nothing mines South Island scenery for the first 'Pavlova Western'. Long-time Weta staffer Mike Wallis directs; and the rousing score is by composer John Psathas.
After a run of hit short films involving creatures on the run, Chicken marked the feature debut of director Grant Lahood. Brit Bryan Marshall stars as Dwight, a fading pop star who fakes his own death as a career move. Meanwhile a crazed fowl rights-activist (Cliff Curtis), angered at Dwight's promotions for fried chicken, plots revenge. Though the romantic black comedy tanked at the box office, the story and performances did receive some positive notice, with Metro reviewer and musician Rick Bryant finding it "very funny ... very enjoyable".
A forgotten slice of New Zealand TV history, A Going Concern was the country's second, short-lived soap opera. Launched in July 1975 — two months after rival soap Close to Home — it revolved around the staff of a South Auckland plastics factory. The characters were a mixture of Pākehā and Māori, plus a Brit (entertainer Ray Woolf, in his first acting role). Apart from this 23 second clip pulled from a 1975 variety show, the series is believed destroyed. A Going Concern won solid reviews, but the new channel's limited coverage affected audience numbers; it ended after a year.