It's hard to reduce legendary band Split Enz down to a single sound or image. Soon after forming in 1973, they began dressing like oddball circus performers, and their music straddled folk, vaudeville and art rock. Later the songs got shorter, poppier and — some say —better, and the visuals were toned down...but you could never accuse the Enz of looking biege. With Split Enz co-founder Tim Finn turning 65 in June 2017, this collection looks back at one of Aotearoa's most successful and eclectic bands. Writer Michael Higgins unravels the evolution of the Enz here.
Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
Paul Henry surprises bungy jumping entrepreneur Alan John Hackett at Auckland Airport with the immortal words, "This is your life". The many guests in this 70-min. special include childhood go-kart friends, bungying celebs and police boat chief Lloyd McIntosh, who recalls the day he witnessed Hackett leaping off Auckland Harbour Bridge as "a highlight from his career". Hackett later stole up, and leapt off, the Eiffel Tower (less Man on a Wire, more man with rubber rope). Adds his mother Margaret: "I'm buggered if I consider him famous. He's just AJ."
In 1982 bad weather left Mark Inglis and Phil Doole trapped for 13 days in a crevasse, close to the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook. No Mean Feat chronicles the path taken by Inglis since — from rescue, and the discovery he would lose his lower limbs, to his reinvention as research scientist, winemaker, and paralympic cyclist. In 2001 cameras followed Inglis back to Cook, where he attempted another climb using custom-designed prosthetic legs. Topped off by stunning aerial footage of Mt Cook, No Mean Feat won best documentary at the 2003 NZ TV Awards.
Hugh Sundae travels to the world's second-largest landlocked country: Mongolia. Normally unenthusiastic about travel or partaking in foods doused in yak butter, Sundae discovers that the presence of a camera adds courage to his journey. The courage proves helpful while sharing accommodation and food in a series of gers (also known as yurts) — portable houses used by the nomads of Central Asia. Sundae's trip includes camels, wrestling, Mongolian throat singing — plus trying to survive a meal made from sour milk and curd, without causing offense.
Half a decade before the electronic beats of Oceania, Hinewehi Mohi's debut single is a gentler, more soulful affair — with the constantly moving close-ups of director Niki Caro's video underlining the song’s heartfelt simplicity. Co-written with Doctor Hone Kaa and Ardijah founding member Jay Dee, the song pushes the importance of rising above adversity, and having the courage to evolve as a people and a nation. The latter would be challenged seven years later by another te reo performance from Mohi — of the national anthem at a rugby test match.
Tusi Tamasese’s first feature tells the story of a taro farmer (real life farmer Fa’afiaula Sagote) who finds the courage to stand tall for his family and culture, and stand up to sceptical villagers. Variety called it “compelling drama”. Though previous films (eg. Flying Fox on a Freedom Tree) have told stories inspired by Samoan writers, The Orator is the first feature written and directed by a Samoan, and the first filmed in Samoan. In its debut at the prestigious Venice Film Festival it won a special jury mention in the Orizzonti (New Horizons) section.
Pioneering reality TV show Flatmates trained its cameras on the home life of a bunch of young Gen X/Gen Y Kiwis. In this second episode the flatmates clean up after a party gone wild — the landlord ain't happy — and discuss flat finances, chore rosters, gender politics, and Anzac Day. Christian mourns his first love, a Finnish exchange student. Meanwhile Vanessa's pronouncements on apt lecture-wear reveal why she became a minor celebrity (she later co-hosted youth show The Drum). And cameraman/flattie Craig finds the courage to reveal a complicating crush.
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.
In director Grant Lahood's 2013 Tropfest NZ entry a young boy takes Kiwi ingenuity to the next level by creatively adapting his gumboots to net sporting victory. But it’s a risky move. Sprung marks a return for Lahood to his dialogue free short film beginnings (eg. Cannes award-winner The Singing Trophy, and his debut Snail’s Pace). Like those shorts, Sprung has a devilish sense of humour, and a crisply edited contest of wills. The ode to the courage of the young and the unpredictability of science was scored by veteran film and TV composers Plan 9.