In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
Fifteen-year-old James is a suburban kid who tries to have it all one night on Courtenay Place. A sensitive lead turn from newcomer Aaron McGregor captures the intensity of being taken by the night, as booze and hormones derail romantic intentions. Choice Night was a second short collaboration between director Christopher Dudman and writer Paul Stanley Ward, loosely based on the latter’s experiences as a teenager in 90s Wellington. It was selected for the Clermont-Ferrand (in competition) and BFI London film festivals, and won Best International Short at Geneva.
Filmed in 2002, this documentary observes a group of people living on Wellington's streets. After being moved on from Cuba Mall, the group sets up a "village of peace" by the Cenotaph (near Parliament). Led by the dreadlocked 'Brother' (aka Ben Hana), they attempt to gain an audience with the government. Their self-proclaimed marae provokes police, public, politicians and media. Reviewer Graeme Tuckett called the film a "landmark in New Zealand documentary making". Hana later gained a local profile as Courtenay Place's 'Blanket Man'. He passed away in January 2012.
Stunt driver Judd (US Oscar winner Cliff Robertson) and his mechanic Casey (ex child star Leif Garrett) are in NZ racing 'Shaker' — their pink and black Trans-Am — when they're enlisted by scientist Dr Christine Ruben on a fast and furious dash from Dunedin. Unknown to the Yanks, Ruben (Lisa Harrow) has stolen a deadly virus that she's aiming to smuggle to the CIA, and away from the NZ military — who plan to use it for bio warfare! Touted as "fantasy car violence", the chase and stunt-laden Run was one of dozens of films sped out under an 80s tax break scheme.
Actor/director Taika Waititi teamed up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement for this mockumentary about life for a flat of vampires. Cameras follow the vamps as they struggle to get into Wellington pubs, squabble over chores and face off against werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jackie van Beek and lazy vampire Jonathan Brugh) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature. It also spawned two TV series, and a live show.
The quarter acre dream is in full flower in this colourful celebration of Kiwi gardening. Director Conon Fraser surveys the symbols (tool sheds, trimmed edges) and rituals (broken window, cricket ball), and muses on the role of gardens: from civic pride to “escape from the house”. A wide range of public and private landscapes are honoured, both reverentially — a time-lapse of blooms in Wellington's Lady Norwood Rose Garden — and whimsically — eg talking pests, and a couple rolling on the lawn in front of a knitting oldie. The film won top prize at a US Horticultural Society Festival.
The second season of New Zealand's first lesbian web series features drama with new partners, family responsibilities and long held secrets. Beth (Tessa Jamieson-Karaha) faces difficult decisions around the welfare of her mother, who is living with dementia, and girlfriend Anna is keen for more attention. Despite her swagger Mel (Nikki Si'ulepa) is finding it hard to emotionally move on from Beth, while Debs (Anji Kreft) is struggling to control a secret that affects her work and love life. Pot Luck became a global hit with over five million views across both series.
This final episode from series two of the arts series is presented by Taika Cohen (aka Taika Waititi) and his alter ego, silly German Gunter Schliemann. Taika makes short film Tama Tū, performs as vampire Diego (later reborn in What We Do in the Shadows) and performs Taika’s Incredible Show at Bats Theatre. Included are scenes from his early, little-seen short film John & Pogo. Also featured are artist Siren Maclaine (aka Siren Deluxe) and her feminist erotica; Caroline Robinson’s large-scale Auckland motorway sculptures; and comics artist Colin Wilson (Judge Dredd, Blueberry).
The Dominant Species is a loopy look at the relationship between people and cars in 1975 Aotearoa ... from an alien's eye view. Nifty animation and special effects intersperse the automotive anthropological survey of Mark IIs, VWs, anti-car activism and car-washing. There's a dream sequence involving a ladykilling Jesus Christ atop a car, and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries scores a rugby match traffic jam (also used in a famous scene in Apocalypse Now). Filmheads will note the tripped out assembly is flush with formative industry talents (see this guide by director Derek Morton).
Best known for his many decades in radio, Peter Harcourt's career also included books and varied screen appearances. In the 60s he and his wife Kate Harcourt fronted Junior Magazine, one of our earliest children’s TV shows. Peter went on to act on Gloss and present the Mobil Song Quest, though his most famous screen appearance runs just 21 seconds – a 60s era underwear ad which was originally rejected as too risque to screen.