Growing up in one of New Zealand’s many convent schools before they were reordered by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, was an experience many found tough. This documentary explores the stories of the girls who endured the nuns’ strict rule, including interviews with Ginette McDonald, Moana Maniapoto and painter Jacqueline Fahey, plus some of the nuns themselves. They discuss discipline, education, their thoughts on becoming nuns and how despite all the rules, they wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Dancer Shona McCullagh’s award-winning debut short film offers a joyful fingers-up to gravity, dialogue, and the idea that nuns never get up to anything exciting. Two nuns flip twist and fly from bedside to beachside, turning a moving train carriage into a jungle gym (in-between desperately seeking solace from the call of nature). The footloose dance film did some travelling of its own: invited to over 30 festivals, including prestigious dance film festivals, and Edinburgh, Clermont-Ferrand, and Sundance (where it played before Kiwi feature Scarfies).
The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand and wrestling with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.
Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. Hosted by Peter Read, this end-of-1968 special from the Wellington edition showcases highlights from over 500 items that year. The concentration is on lighter material, most famously a hoax piece on a farmer who puts gumboots on his turkeys. In another piece reporter John Shrapnell discovers that locked cars in the city tend to be the exception. Also featured: an interview with entertainer Rolf Harris, and an impromptu Kiwi street-Hamlet.
Australian-raised Melanie Rodriga (née Read) moved to New Zealand in 1977, and worked as an editor. After adapting Keri Hulme story Hooks and Feelers, she wrote and directed feminist thriller Trial Run in 1983. In 1988 Rodriga was a best director finalist for pioneering TV drama The Marching Girls. Rodriga now lectures in film at Perth’s Murdoch University and continues to make and develop films.
Colleen Hodge began her television career in the mid 1970s as a researcher on documentary series Encounter and Perspective. She was a co-founder of independent research company Bluestockings, which worked on the Feltex Award-winning Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story. After time on contract with various television departments, she formed her own production company, and began producing documentaries.
Writer Debra Daley’s first TV script, Universal Drive, was adapted from her short story about growing up in the car culture of West Auckland. She went on to write for Gloss and Open House, and create “money and greed” TV thriller The Shadow Trader. She later published novel The Strange Letter Z (1995) and worked as an assessor for the NZ Film Commission. Daley divides her time between London, France and Ireland.
Beth Tredray began working in sound at Radio New Zealand, and the National Film Unit. Often on contract to TVNZ, she worked on shows Close Up and Top Town. Going freelance as a sound recordist in the early 90s, she began moving into sound design in the mid 2000s. Since then Tredray has designed the soundtracks for hit documentary Tickled and Emmy-nominated telefilm The Golden Hour.
Although Ginette McDonald's career is most associated with the gormless, vowel-mangling girl-from-the-suburbs: Lyn of Tawa, she is a woman of many parts. Alongside an extensive acting and presenting career, her work as producer and director spans three decades, and includes Shark in the Park, Gliding On, and kidult series The Fire-Raiser.
Dunedin-born Bridget Armstrong has found success in a range of British and Kiwi stage and screen roles. At 18 she joined the touring NZ Players, where she recreated characters as diverse as Anne Frank and Elizabeth I. Later in London, Armstrong showed her comedic talents and played Katherine Mansfield for the BBC. Back in New Zealand she acted on TV's Gather Your Dreams and Roger Hall film Middle Age Spread.