Peter Jackson has gone from shy fanboy to master of his craft; from Pukerua Bay to Wellywood. With six journeys into Middle-earth now behind him, he has few peers in the realm of large scale filmmaking. Led by early 'behind the scenes' docos this collection pays tribute to PJ's journey, from re-making King Kong in his backyard to err ... re-making King Kong in his backyard.
This collection celebrates all things equine on New Zealand screens. Since the early days of the colony, horses have been everything from nation builders (Cobb & Co) to national heroes (Phar Lap, Charisma) to companions (Black Beauty) to heartland icons. Whether work horse, war horse, wild horse, or show pony, horses have become a key part of this (Kiwi) way of life.
Neil Finn has described the lyric to this song as "on the one hand, feeling kind of lost and, on the other hand, sort of urging myself on". The wistful single was Crowded House's breakthrough, hitting number two in the US (and the top spot in Aotearoa, after local radio earlier showed little interest). Australian director Alex Proyas (The Crow) based his video on locations from the band members' childhoods. As Finn walks from room to room, the video also neatly reinforces the band's name. 'Don't Dream It’s Over' remains one of the biggest international hits penned by a Kiwi.
Point Your Toes, Cushla! captures a girl's eye view of the final minutes before she goes on stage in a ballet contest — where one wrong move could be a short cut to humiliation. In this case the danger is heightened thanks to a stage mother whose idea of encouragement is constant meddling (played in scene-stealing brilliance by Alison Wall). Low on dialogue but rich in detail, this film by Simon Marler was invited to a number of overseas festivals, where it won a jury diploma in St Petersburg. It also got general release in Kiwi cinemas.
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
This 1950 documentary about early primary school education was made by pioneering female director Margaret Thomson, who rated it her favourite NZ work. The survey of contemporary educational theory examines the new order in 'infant schooling' (though some things never change, like tadpoles and tidy up time). It is broken into sections: ‘Play in the Infant School’, ‘Doing and Learning’, ‘Learning to Read’, ‘Number Work’ and ‘Living and Learning’. The National Film Unit doco was made for the Department of Education. Douglas Lilburn composed the score.
In a wooden cabin on the edge of the forest, a strange young girl referred to only as 'Kid' holds court over her trapper Dad and his isolated bush family; she sits beneath the dinner table, makes animal sounds and refuses to be washed. This pitch-black fable is told through the eyes — and distinctive voice — of her sympathetic brother 'Little Man', who one night makes a fateful decision that liberates her into the wild. Filmed in gas-lit sepia by Leon Narbey, the atmospheric and award-winning film announced the directorial talents of the late Brad McGann.
Little known in its homeland, but an award-winner overseas, director Michael Heath's tragic portrait of mother and child confronts "intense emotion without flinching" (as Lawrence McDonald wrote). Largely bypassing dialogue in favour of a more elemental approach, the filmmakers combine sound and song (courtesy of composer David Downes and singer Mahinārangi Tocker) with lyrical imagery of the family revelling in their rural backblock (shot by Stephen Latty). There is added poignancy in the fact that Tocker — playing the mother who loses her boy — herself passed away in 2008.
Four decades before starring in The Last Samurai, New Zealand’s most symmetrical volcano stole the limelight in this NFU short. Extolling a mantra of progress and change, Taranaki presents New Plymouth as regional hub and suburban paradise, surrounded by bays and gladioli. Narrator Paul Ricketts touches on a conflict-soaked past by recalling his great grandmother’s nightly refuge in a central city stockade, during the 1860s Taranaki Wars. Back in 1954, a fishing license costs two pounds, and co-operatively-run dairy factories produce over half the nation’s cheese.