For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
In 1951, New Zealand temporarily became a police state. Civil liberties were curtailed, freedom of speech denied, and people could be imprisoned for providing food to those involved. This award-winning documentary tells the story of the 1951 lockout of waterside workers, and what followed: an extended nationwide strike, confrontation and censorship. There are interviews with many involved, from workers to journalists and police. At the 2002 NZ Television Awards, 1951 won awards for Best Documentary and Documentary Director (John Bates). Costa Botes backgrounds 1951 here.
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell, she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his earlier work, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; although critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film that offered "style and brains".
This 2010 series adapted the theatre comedy of Laughing Samoans Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea’i into a show on TV2, pairing sketches and interviews with excerpts from their stage show. In this opening episode Aunty Tala (Fepulea’i) receives a sign that a prospective husband is in Wellington and takes her niece Fai (Ete) to nab him. Their tour of the capital includes Te Papa, Cuba Street, The Backbencher Pub near Parliament, and Les Mills gym. Aunty Tala flirts with All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu, opera singer Ben Makisi, Prime Minister John Key and actor Robbie Magasiva.
“Here is a taste of the best and worst of Backch@t 2000…goodnight.” Presenter Bill Ralston introduces this reel of outtakes and highlights from the Gibson Group arts series. The creative sector's issues of the day include installing Len Lye’s Wind Wand, arts funding, and arts patron Denis Adam’s thoughts on Te Papa’s arts displays. Ralston, reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and film reviewer Chris Knox all get tongue-tied; there’s a tiff between two architecture panelists, brief appearances by Ian McKellen and Miriama Kamo, and opera singer Jonathan Lemalu hits a low note.
Fifteen wannabe comedians combat nerves and a tight deadline in this first episode of talent quest So You Think You're Funny. The first task for judges Jon Bridges, Raybon Kan and Paul Horan is to eliminate five contenders from the line-up. The contestants are given a few days to write and practise a short set, before performing it in front of a live audience at Queen Street's Classic Comedy Bar. This scenario would be terrifying for most, and it confirms a harsh truth that Horan offers early on: "If the audience hates you, there's not a lot we can do'. One hundred people originally auditioned.
This documentary is a portrait of Wellington art-dealer Peter McLeavey, who spent over 40 years running his influential Cuba Street gallery. In the Leon Narbey-shot film, McLeavey talks about his life: a roving North Island railway childhood, an early love of art, discovering his New Zealand identity while living in London, and returning home to run over 500 plus exhibitions, initially from his flat — including key showcases of artists such as Toss Woollaston, Gordon Walters, and Colin McCahon.
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.
After four years as part of Hello Sailor, guitarist Dave McArtney stepped out with his own band The Pink Flamingos — and found himself very much the centre of attention in this video made by TVNZ for the Flamingos' debut single. With only his guitar for support, he roams the streets of downtown Wellington stalking the object of his desire, who remains largely impassive despite his protestations — and all but obscured in a haze of cigarette smoke. Locations include an empty Cuba Mall (beside the bucket fountain) and Plimmer Steps. McArtney died in April 2013.
Actor Heather Lindsay (now Heather Randerson) cemented her part in New Zealand television history as one of the original cast of the country’s first bona-fide soap hit, Close to Home. Alongside her theatre work, she enjoyed an extensive screen career in the 80s and 90s, acting alongside some of the biggest talents of the day.