Frank Chilton

Director

Using the power of documentary film Frank Chilton made a difference to the lives of disabled children in New Zealand and around the world. The films he directed for the National Film Unit won many awards and he was honoured by the Queen with an OBE for services to the handicapped.

The Coronation of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga

Short Film, 1968 (Full Length)

Taufa'ahau Tupou IV was crowned King of Tonga on his 49th birthday. This NFU film covers the lead up to and the entire ceremony on 4 July 1967. It was the first coronation in the island kingdom since Tupou’s mother, Queen Sālote, in 1918. Tongans from the outer islands had been arriving in the capital Nuku'alofa for a month. Dignitaries included the Duke and Duchess of Kent and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, plus opposition leader Norman Kirk. Director Derek Wright covers the ceremony with decorum, reflecting the dignity of the occasion.

Inquiry - Checking Prices, Counting Costs

Television, 1974 (Full Length Episode)

This 70s current affairs show does a cost benefit analysis of Trade Minister Warren Freer’s Maximum Retail Price scheme (MRP), which capped retail prices. Drawn from an era of economic theory poles that was apart from the market deregulation of the 80s, the investigation sets out to poll opinion in supermarket aisles, a grocery in Glenorchy, and factory floors (Faggs coffee, Cadbury chocolate). The checkouts are a battlefield between red tape and free range retail. The early animated sequence by Bob Stenhouse marked an early use of animation in a local TV documentary. 

A Deaf Child in the Family

Short Film, 1969 (Full Length)

Winner of multiple awards, this 40 minute film aims to teach families how to manage communication with a deaf child. Narrator Peter Brian guides young families through the steps they can take to ensure their deaf child is able to develop speech and communication as effectively as possible. The documentary includes interviews with two deaf adults living full lives. In an early example of crowdfunding, a sponsorship body was set up to fund A Deaf Child in the Family. It was one of a number of shorts written and directed by Frank Chilton which focussed on people living with disabilities.

A Baby on the Way

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

Made for the Plunket Society by the NFU, A Baby on the Way uses a blackboard and various experts in front of an antenatal class to provide birth education for early 70s Kiwi parents-to-be. Plunket Medical Director Neil Begg lowers his pipe to introduce the lessons, and contemporary advice for ensuring a mother’s health during pregnancy is given by doctors, nurses, and physios. The scenes involving breast massage and analgesics may have induced titters in school-aged audiences, unlike the brief-but-gory concluding birth (set to piped organ music).

Recovering from a Coronary

Short Film, 1970 (Full Length)

Made for the National Heart Foundation, this 1970 documentary shows “a rehabilitation programme for patients with coronary heart disease”, devised by Otago University Medical School and the NZ School of Physiotherapy. The film is framed around a doctor addressing a class of nursing students, and follows a “coronary club” of patients through PE rehab to being able to work, garden and play golf again. The film also imparts general health lessons to avoid heart disease (exercise, quit smoking, lose weight). It was made by the National Film Unit.

Asthma and Your Child

Short Film, 1967 (Full Length)

This 1967 NFU instructional film demonstrates breathing exercises developed by Bernice ‘Bunny’ Thompson, to help children suffering from asthma and bronchitis. The film was based on the pioneering physiotherapist's 1963 book of the same name. Director Frank Chilton won renown for his documentaries dealing with the health and welfare needs of children. Asthma and Your Child was commissioned by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation, and was an early example of a privately-funded socially-useful film. The animation of respiratory processes is by Morrow Productions.

To Help a Crippled Child

Short Film, 1972 (Full Length)

This 1972 NFU documentary looks at the care of children born with physical disabilities. Aimed at families with ‘crippled’ children, the film was directed by Frank Chilton for the Crippled Children Society (now CCS Disability Action). Parents, doctors, teachers and field officers are shown engaging with children and young adults at home and in the community, from spring-loaded splints for spina bifida patients to Māori stick games as therapy for cerebral palsy. It is introduced by Mrs New Zealand 1970, Alison Henry (whose son was born with a congenital foot defect).

Pictorial Parade No. 120 - Samoan Family

Short Film, 1961 (Full Length)

This 1961 edition of Pictorial Parade visits Western Samoa shortly before it gains independence from New Zealand. Locals are seen voting in the May referendum, where a huge majority voted to self-rule. Surgeon Ioane Okesene and his large family feature in this newsreel; daughter Karaponi is filmed marrying her Kiwi partner Bill McGrath in Apia. (Trivia fact: Rugby legend Michael Jones' mother, Maina Jones, is among the wedding guests.) Western Samoa's close ties to Aotearoa are highlighted, with stories of locals moving downunder to study, such as medical student Margaret Stehlin. 

The Treatment of Cerebral Palsy in New Zealand

Film, 1955 (Full Length)

This 65 minute long documentary looks at the treatment of New Zealand children born with cerebral palsy (a set of conditions which affect motor control, caused by brain defects that typically occur around pregnancy and birth). Made for the Department of Health, the National Film Unit production visits a specialist unit in Rotorua, to praise the understanding and care applied to help the ‘cerebral palsied’ live full lives. Director Frank Chilton was made an OBE for services to handicapped children. This film won a Diploma of Merit at the 1957 Edinburgh Film Festival.