As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise.
Early Days Yet, directed by Shirley Horrocks, is a full-length documentary about New Zealand poet Allen Curnow, made in the last months of his life. The poet talks about his life and work, and visits the places of some of his most important poems. It includes interviews with other New Zealand poets about Curnow's significance as an advocate for New Zealand poetry. As Curnow famously mused in front of a moa skeleton displayed in Canterbury Museum: "Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here."
This 2011 episode of the Russell Brown-fronted media commentary show examines how Christchurch is dealing with the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes. First up: the CEISMIC Digital Archive is working to preserve the memories and experiences of Cantabrians, and The Press editor Andrew Holden explains why his newspaper is donating everything it has published to the project. Then CERA CEO Roger Sutton talks about the key role of media relations, and filmmaker Gerard Smyth describes shooting his acclaimed chronicle of the quakes: When a City Falls.
This promotional travelogue, made for the Christchurch City Council, shows off the city and its environs. Filmed at a time when New Zealand’s post-war economy was booming as it continued its role as a farmyard for the “Old Country”, it depicts Christchurch as a prosperous city, confident in its green and pleasant self-image as a “better Britain” (as James Belich coined NZ’s relationship to England), and architecturally dominated by its cathedrals, churches and schools. Many of these buildings were severely damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
This NZBC religious programme goes where TV cameras had never gone before: behind the walls of the Carmelite monastery in Christchurch. There, it finds a community of 16 Catholic nuns, members of a 400-year-old order, who have shut themselves off from the outside world to lead lives devoted to prayer, contemplation and simple manual work. Despite their seclusion, the sisters are unphased by the intrusion and happy to discuss their lives and their beliefs; while the simplicity and ceremony of their world provides fertile ground for the monochrome camerawork.
This Philip Temple-scripted episode of Our People, Our Century covers stories of New Zealanders and their turangawaewae: a piece of land they call their own. The importance of the land to farming families, and to the economy of NZ is explored through the eyes of three families. Elworthy Station in South Canterbury is being farmed by a 5th generation Elworthy. Two elderly ladies reminisce on their childhood in remote Mangapurua, near Raetihi in the central North Island. And a Māori family in Taranaki reflects on their decision to sell the family farm.
Chimney Book takes rubble from the Christchurch earthquake, and turns it into the building blocks of a film exploring life in the quake zone. Christchurch musician Blair Parkes took bricks from his chimney — destroyed in the 22 February 2011 aftershocks — painted a letter or symbol on each, then scanned them into his computer. Sound and word form the spine of the result, which is part diary, part experimental film. Parkes explores his experiences of living in Christchurch since the quake through words like 'dust', 'memory', 'place', and a question: 'is it over?'
This TVNZ doco chronicles New Zealand’s participation in 18 Empire and Commonwealth Games — beginning at Hamilton, Canada in 1930 when a Kiwi team of 18 participated in four sports. A cavalcade of gold medallists (including Yvette Williams, Dick Tayler, Anna Simcic and Neroli Fairhall) recall their glory days at the event which was set up to be “merrier and less stern” than The Olympics. Special emphasis is placed on the three New Zealand-hosted Games: at Auckland in 1950 and 1990, and Christchurch in 1974 (which hastened the local arrival of colour television).
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
The Son of a Gunn Show was a popular 90s after school links show for kids. It was hosted by the irrepressible Jason Gunn, who wrangled proceedings with the help of alien puppet sidekick Thingee. The energetic show took in everything from song and dance numbers, and educational segments, to spoofs and impressions (often Frank Spencer) as Gunn et al played in loco parentis to a generation of Kiwi kids. Guests included sports and show business celebrities of the day. The show ended when TVNZ moved their children’s production from Christchurch to Wellington.