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.
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.
The Ballantyne's Department Store fire of 18 November 1947 was — until the 2011 earthquake — Christchurch’s biggest disaster. It claimed 41 lives and, as the narration says, was “one of the greatest civil tragedies New Zealand has known.” Shot by National Film Unit crew who happened to be in the city for another film, Christchurch Fire shows the battle to beat the blaze: from the mass of hoses on Cashel St, to a fireman swapping a ciggie for a cup of tea. After the footage was rushed to Wellington, the film debuted in cinemas the night after the fire, and was also seen overseas.
This National Film Unit film visits Christchurch roughly four years before the main event, to promote the city’s readiness to host the Commonwealth Games. A comical potted history of New Zealand precedes a montage of young women cycling around Canterbury environs and a split screen catalogue of NZ tourist attractions, before getting into a survey of the venues. As the opening demonstrates, “there’s always a traditional welcome awaiting our friends!” In 1973 the NFU completed a second film called Christchurch 74, before covering the games themselves in the feature-length Games 74.
In late 1989 U2 played to 60,000 at Lancaster Park. Exhausted by a relentless schedule and criticism of their recent explorations of American music, the band hoped for a short, fun tour with BB King. These performances were shot for music show CV. Reaction to show opener ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ shows it was a good idea not to give up on the song during recording. After the classic ‘I Will Follow’, Bono invites a cool as a cucumber audience member up to play guitar on ‘People Get Ready’. U2 went on to reinvent themselves in Berlin with the acclaimed Achtung Baby.
This 1966 edition of National Film Unit’s magazine slot heads to Christchurch International Airport to explore weather measuring devices being launched there. Helium 'Ghost Balloons' are sent into the sky by an outpost of the United States' National Center for Atmospheric Research. Meanwhile Christchurch weathermen send up hydrogen balloons, read satellite data, and provide a flight plan for a U2 reconnaisance plane from the US Air Force. The pilot’s preflight routine involves breathing pure oxygen to prepare him for the ultrahigh altitude plane’s steep ascent into the sky.
TVNZ's long running religious and choral music programme visits Christchurch's Anglican cathedral. Before its devastation by earthquakes, it was the centre of the city and one of the most celebrated of its great Gothic buildings. It could also claim to be "the most visited, the most accessible and best known church in New Zealand". Host Graeme Thomson explores the cathedral, its chapels and bell tower and outlines its history. He interviews Dean John Bluck and introduces hymns and songs of praise sung by the cathedral's choir and an ecumenical congregation.
This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.
For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.