For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
This first episode of this much-loved kids series explores all things to do with lighthouses. It begins with a visit to Nugget Point; then things get eclectic. Earnest informational TV is interspersed with psychedelic graphics, cartoons, a sea shanty ("I want to marry a lighthouse keeper"), and funky lighthouse-themed songs. We meet Don (a lighthouse stamp collector); uncover the mysteries of how a ship fits into a bottle; and the three young presenters deconstruct their attempts at painting lighthouses, including a fine abstract effort from co-presenter Ray Millard. Classic.
In the mid-1990s one of Peter Peryer's photographs caused a diplomatic stir. 'Dead Steer' depicted the bloated carcass of a cow on a lonely New Zealand roadside, and the then Agriculture Minister protested its inclusion in a German exhibition of Peryer's work. This documentary from prolific arts director Shirley Horrocks examines the life and career of this important New Zealand artist. Peryer was awarded an ONZM for his contribution to photography and in 2000 became one of five inaugural laureates of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. He died in November 2018.
Florian Habicht shot Liebesträume ('love dream' in German) on a windup Bolex 16mm camera. His decision to record the dialogue separately enhances the surreal feel of this tale of suburban desire. A paper boy is invited in for a glass of milk by an elderly man (played by Habicht's father, photographer Frank Habicht). Then Frank's alluring partner Donna enters the scene. Habicht rejects traditional narrative in favour of juxtaposition and dark humour. The film is not to be confused with Habicht's 2000 feature Liebesträume - The Absurd Dreams of Killer Ray, about late entertainer Killer Ray.
New Zealand art has become a financial as well as emotional investment. In this documentary, director Shirley Horrocks talks to local art collectors, dealers and auctioneers about the market for original New Zealand artwork. Teacher Jim Fraser lives a modest life, putting all his passion into owning original art. Wellington couple Les and Milly Paris have gradually accrued a significant and valuable art collection, but their motivation has always been emotional. This feeling is shared by wealthier collectors, like arts patron (and film producer) James Wallace.
This NFU documentary looks at working lives of a crew of Wellington rubbish collectors aka 'the dusties'. With an insightful dustie narrating, the film follows the team on their rounds, beginning early morning with the seagulls at the depot. Then it's into the trucks and off to face occupational hazards: irate householders, sodden winter sacks, and notoriously steep hills. Our dustie muses on everything from health benefits and job perks (discarded beer, money and toasters!) to cleanliness. This classic observational film ends with a tribute folk song.
New Zealand Mirror was a National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series aimed at showcasing Aotearoa to the British market. A Whangarei clock collector is a quirky choice to open this edition of Kiwi reflections. His display includes a clock that goes backwards. The ensuing segments are more in keeping with Māoriland and Shaky Isles postcard expectations. The annual Ngāruawāhia waka regatta includes novelty canoe hurdle races. There are also dramatic shots of 6000 foot high “cauliflower clouds” from Ruapehu’s 1945 eruption, and of the crater lake turned to seething lava.
Never broadcast on local TV, Men of the Silver Fern was made for the NZRFU (now known as New Zealand Rugby) for its 1992 centenary. Four hour-long programmes provided a chronological celebration of all things All Black, told via archive footage and over 40 interviews with players, officials and historians (reenactments illustrate the early era). Originally planned as a single programme, it was decided to release the four episodes as a ‘collector’s edition’ VHS box-set. Peter Coates directed, and produced with Keith Quinn and rugby administrators Ces Blazey and Ivan Vodanovich.
This 1949 NFU film is a whistle-stop tour of Aotearoa that, per the title, takes in the full gamut of the scenic wonderland. Splendidly filmed in Kodachrome, there are lakes (Tutira, Manapouri, Te Anau, Wakatipu), caves (Waitomo), mountains (Cook/Aoraki, Egmont/Taranaki) and forests and farms aplenty, with the occasional city sojourn and an obligatory ferry shot. In the narration indefatigable nature is harnessed for man’s needs and appreciation. Of note is a sequence on gum-collector Nicholas Yakas, who shows impressive agility as he scales a giant kauri.
Heartland host Gary McCormick hunkers down in the Catlins ("New Zealand the way it used to be"), the wild southern coast stretching between Invercargill and Balclutha. After watching the action at school sports day, he discovers a rural community revolving around family, church and pub. Interviewees include a Metallica-loving teenager who has just bought his second car, for cruising; and spoon collector Kitty 'Granny' Burgess. He also visits a rugged Long Point farm to check out rare yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), who look very punk during moulting season.