This special edition of the National Film Unit’s monthly magazine series looks at some of the “people, places and events filmed by our cameramen during the years 1941 - 1962”. The NFU’s 21st birthday review — compiled by David H Fowler — ranges from wartime newsreels to the post-war boom (factories, dams, industrial agriculture), from salvos to Peter Snell. Other images include Kiwi soldiers playing rugby in Korea, and cigarettes hanging from the lips of firemen fighting Christchurch's Ballantyne Department Store fire in 1947.
Vietnam veteran Thomas Brosnahan shares his time spent in the military in this Memories of Service Interview. He moved from the Territorial Forces to the army at 23 to join his two brothers, before heading off to the war in Southeast Asia. He would spend 20 years in military service across Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, including active duty in the capital, Saigon. As well as the Vietnam War itself, Brosnahan reflects on life after the war, particularly on the hostility vets faced from the public upon returning home, and the effects of agent orange on his former colleagues.
Sponsored by the Crusader Shipping Company, this 1966 National Film Unit production joins one of the firm's ships as it transports NZ products from Auckland to Asia — home to “one quarter of the human race, 900 million customers”. As milk powder, wool, mutton, apples, cheese and deer antlers are delivered to ports in the Philippines, China, Japan, and Hong Kong, director Ron Bowie observes cultural difference and economic opportunity; and a “westernising” Orient is beautifully captured by Kell Fowler. The NFU crew were rare foreign observers in Chairman Mao’s China.
The Colombo Plan was a Commonwealth “federation of neighbours” which aimed to counter communism in Asia by providing development aid in the area's poorer countries. This National Film Unit short, directed by future NFU manager David H Fowler, ranges across Asia as it surveys New Zealand’s contributions to the postwar plan: funding hospitals, agriculture and education in Indonesia, Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo, Pakistan and India. The film also visits Colombo students in their home countries, passing on skills that they learned while studying at NZ universities.
Trainspotter Marcus Lush trades the Raurimu Spiral for Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway where he is served peas in oil. He takes in a vast country wrestling off shackles of communism, where beer drinking on buses on the way to work equates with capitalist freedom. He visits Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok, and inbetween discovers that much of Russia still follows traditional customs: emphasising respect, sharing food, drink and ciggies; and he concludes: "I'd rather be a peasant in Russia than live in a trailer park in Detroit."
One of the most controversial political adverts to emerge from New Zealand, this 1975 spot only played twice on local television, but helped bring National a landslide win. National leader Rob Muldoon’s chief target was the Labour Government’s superannuation scheme, which the ad notoriously associated with communism, via a troupe of dancing Cossacks. Created by ad agency Colenso, the concept was animated by company Hanna-Barbera in Australia. After being elected, Muldoon brought in a replacement superannuation scheme.
This Review episode from 1973 offers an interview with Hone Tuwhare — then 51 years old — at the Māori Writers' and Artists' Conference at Tukaki Marae, in the town of Te Kaha. One of New Zealand’s best-loved and lauded poets, Tuwhare speaks of various influences, including sex, religion, trade unionism and communism. Poet Rowley Habib sits alongside Hone in the interview, and occasionally contributes to the conversation. This documentary also features a poetry reading from Dunedin's Globe Theatre.
In 1993 Paul Holmes travelled to the UK to meet Margaret Thatcher, who had recently authored "clear and vivid" memoir The Downing Street Years. In this hour-long interview, the outspoken former PM talks NZ anti-nuclear policy (bad), Communism (evil), and sanctions in South Africa (pointless). The horrors of Bosnia, she argues, show what happens when consensus politics win out over strong leadership. An iron lady explosion is only narrowly avoided after Holmes probes Thatcher on David Lange’s comment that meeting her was like being addressed by a Nazi orator.
Radio veteran Kim Hill finds herself among the politics, cigar smoke and dancing in Cuba, in this episode of the long-running travel show. During a 15-day visit, a series of seemingly random encounters take her off the beaten track to Hoodoo ceremonies, the Bay of Pigs and the sad spectacle of Guantanamo Bay. Hill conveys a textured perspective on life in Castro's Republic, and calls it "a strange mixture of Soviet style communism and Latin American hedonism".
Jess Feast's debut feature documentary centres around the hip Berlin burlesque joint, White Trash Fast Food, and explores life in post-wall East Berlin: a place where libertines and die-hard communists co-exist but not always harmoniously. The Cowboy is Wally, an artist and chef, who escaped LA to live a life of freedom in Berlin. The Communist is Horst, an intelligent ex-journalist who lives upstairs from White Trash, and mourns for the old regime. Won Best Documentary by a young filmmaker at the Kassel Documentary Festival, 2007.