Starting in the questioning times of the late 60s, many New Zealanders began leaving town to set up their own communities, in search of alternative ways to live. This then and now documentary travels to communes long gone and still active, and tracks down many of those involved. Tim Shadbolt describes a time when people questioned "everything fearlessly ... without reserve and without restraint". The back to the land approach brought both satisfaction and fatigue. Dirty Bloody Hippies played to full houses at NZ's Documentary Edge Festival.
Marking one of the earliest films made by Roger Donaldson (Smash Palace), this curio chronicles the dawning of the Age of Aquarius in NZ. The made for TV film features interviews with those who've swapped walk shorts for wigwams to "start again". There's rebellion against all things straight, and rejection of the city in favour of getting back to nature. Folk songs are the soundtrack to leaping hippies, outdoor bathing, "group touching", the Blerta bus, and DIY dome housing. Counterpointing the Counterculture are 1984-style scenes of masked marchers representing the "silent majority".
The three day Nambassa Festival, held on a Waihi farm in 1979, is the subject of this documentary. Attended by 60,000 people, it represented a high tide mark in Aotearoa for the Woodstock vision of a music festival as a counterculture celebration of music, crafts, alternative lifestyles and all things hippy. Performers include a frenzied Split Enz, The Plague (wearing paint), Limbs dancers, a yodelling John Hore-Grenell and prog rockers Schtung. The only downers are overzealous policing, and weather which discourages too much communing with nature after the first day.
Private Journeys / Public Signposts turns the camera on photographer Ans Westra. Dutch emigree Westra has captured iconic images of New Zealanders since the late 1950s, expressively observing Aotearoa societal changes, particularly Māori urban drift. This film explores her remarkable life and work, and includes commentary from family and friends, fellow photographers, and colleagues, as well as discussion of the Washday at the Pa controversy. Luit Bieringa, curator of Westra's retrospective photo exhibition, directed the film, his first.
Geoff Steven's career spans documentary, experimental film and photography. In 1978, he directed acclaimed feature Skin Deep, the first major investment by the newly established NZ Film Commission. Steven followed it with Strata and a long run of documentaries, before time as a TV executive at both TV3 and TVNZ. He now heads the Our Place World Heritage Project.
Sound recordist Dick Reade's list of awards includes gongs for his work on The Navigator, Mt Zion, After the Waterfall and When Love Comes — and an Emmy nomination for TV’s Buggin’ with Ruud. In 2007 he was named SPADA/Onfilm industry champion. After more than a decade with state television, Reade went freelance in the early 80s. These days he runs his own studio in West Auckland.
Roger Horrocks has been raising the quality of debate about New Zealand film and television for nigh on half a century. At Auckland University he campaigned for, then ran, the country’s first and biggest film studies course. Horrocks has written extensively about Kiwi culture, including writing the definitive book on Len Lye. He is also a filmmaker and was a founding board member of organisation NZ On Air.