In this experimental drama shot in 1975, four young idealists escape the city for rural Foxton, and set about living off the land. But an act of violence sends the commune into isolation and extremism. Teasing tense drama from rural settings, the 90 minute tale from maverick National Film Unit director Paul Maunder shines a harsh light on the contradictions of the frontier spirit. Although state television funded it, they found it too edgy to screen; instead Landfall debuted at the 1977 Wellington Film Festival. The cast includes Sam Neill as a Vietnam vet, and Mark ll director John Anderson.
Apemen, Barbie dolls, and hairy shoes ... as this doco demonstrates, hair turns up everywhere (or not, as one man's poignant and matter-of-fact testimony to the horrors of losing it demonstrates). Hair's co-director, Auckland artist Judy Darragh, uses her fascination with all-things hirsute as a springboard for wit, thought-provoking theories, and some unusual artwork. She also phones Welsh author Elaine Morgan, who believes our ancestors lost much of their hair thanks to a semi-aquatic past. Producer Fiona Copland joins Darragh as co-director.
Solo is a story about three people on the edge of nowhere, struggling to decide how much of themselves to share with those they care about. Young Australian hitchhiker Judy romances solo Dad Paul, who finds peace flying fire patrol planes above the forest. Paul's precocious son reacts badly to losing pole position to Judy, and takes to the air. Inspired partly by the oft-painful times when we are "more acutely in touch” with our emotions, Tony Williams' romance helped launch the Kiwi movie renaissance. But as he writes in the backgrounder, there was no fun in filming it three times.
Stalin’s Sickle takes Kiwi suburban paranoia to unexpected places as nine-year-old Daniel imagines his neighbour is feared Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. Set amidst 1962 Cold War conservatism, Daniel spots the south seas’ Stalin at church, spies on him to confirm his suspicions and schemes to send him on his way. But Daniel’s civil defence plan goes awry, leaving him with a worse threat to deal with. Based on the short story by Michael Morrissey, the Costa Botes-directed film won the Grand Jury Prize at Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.
In the first episode of The Cult, headstrong lawyer Michael Lewis (Shortland Street's Renato Bartolomei) joins a volatile group in a Northland house. Each of them has lost a family member or friend to commune Two Gardens, and wants to get them out. Meanwhile, inside Two Gardens, Michael's son is asked to "renounce" his own brother. Created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox, The Cult won Qantas awards for acting, design, music, cinematography, and editing — and was nominated for another four acting awards. Peter Burger (Until Proven Innocent) directs this first episode.
Richard Turner made Squeeze to break the "conspiracy of silence" about homosexuality. A pioneering early portrait of Auckland's LGBT scene, Squeeze centres on the relationship between a young man (Paul Eady) and the confident executive (Robert Shannon) who romances him, then mentions he has a fiancée. The film was discussed in Parliament after Patricia Bartlett campaigned against the possibility it might get NZ Film Commission funding (it didn't). Kevin Thomas in The LA Times praised Squeeze's integrity and the "steadfast compassion with which it views its hero".
This teleplay from writer Greg McGee is a satire of prejudice and the market economy set in the grey, divisive atmosphere of early 1980s New Zealand. Kate Harcourt plays the proprietor of Dot's Terminal Cafe, a cantankerous spinster who rails against 'bludgers' and 'foreigners'. One rain-soaked Wellington night, her lumpen clientele decide to stage a small but telling uprising — with the help of a dead mouse. It screened in early 1982, following the breakout success of McGee’s confrontational take on Kiwi conformity: rugby player losing-his-religion play Foreskin’s Lament.
This 1976 TV2 report covers the launch of Gordon McLauchlan’s book Passionless People in Eketahuna, a town he had derided in newspaper columns as an epicentre of New Zealand conformity. Within the book’s pages the author infamously called Kiwis "smiling zombies" – lazy, smug, and a bunch of moaners. McLauchlan bravely visits the local pub, and stands in front of the 'hot pies' sign to muse about sexuality. Ex-All Black Brian Lochore is MC at the launch, where McLauchlan is put on mock trial in stocks at the town hall. Passionless People was a runaway best seller.
Boh Runga and Stellar* enjoyed a breakthrough year in 1999 with their synthesis of guitars and electronic beats realised on Mix, a chart topping debut produced by Tom Bailey (of Thompson Twins fame). Jonathan King's video for 'Part of Me', the album's second single, creates a repressive, futuristic world of glass, concrete and steel where the only plants seen are those grown in strictly controlled conditions. But in amongst the soulless conformity, surveillance cameras and sterile suits, it might be too soon to completely write off Mother Nature.
Filmmaker Tom Reilly went to Graham Gordon’s West Auckland wrecker’s yard to buy car parts. He soon found himself chronicling Gordon’s battle with the former Waitakere Council trying to clear his 100 acre property (nicknamed Gordonia) of car wrecks, and a small army of colourful but largely destitute men camping there. The result was a documentary capturing the gulf between Gordon’s cheerful but dogged non-conformity and a council determined to enforce its by-laws at all costs. The soundtrack is by guitar legend and occasional resident Billy TK Senior.