When gold fever hit Central Otago in the late 19th century, hundreds of Chinese immigrants were among the hopeful prospectors. They were a quiet community scraping a living in harsh conditions, hoping to save money for families back home. This report for Contact follows the work of archaeologist Neville Ritchie, who in 1981 led one of Aotearoa's "biggest archaelogical operations" yet — an excavation of Cromwell's Chinatown, the makeshift village left to nature after the last miner died. It was part of wider research of the area, before new dams put some of the history underwater.
The inventions of Bill Hamilton dominate this instalment of long-running cinema series Pictorial Parade. Hamilton tests his pioneering jet boat on Canterbury's Ohau River, while new inventions including a hydraulic digger are put to the test on the hard rocky soils at Irishman Creek. Meanwhile on the production line in Christchurch, engineers and machinists are hard at work getting graders and loaders in top working order. Also featured is a new diesel railcar on New Zealand’s train network, and the crew of the HMNZS Hawea and HMNZS Black Prince training in the Cook Strait.
After kicking off with 'Poi-E' and the opening of landmark exhibition Te Māori in New York, this documentary sets out to summarise the key elements of Māori culture and history in a single hour. Narrator Don Selwyn ranges across past and (mid 80s) present: from early Māori settlement and moa-hunting, to the role of carvings in "telling countless stories". There are visits to Rotorua's Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and a Sonny Waru-led course aimed at getting youth in touch with their Māoritanga. The interviews include Napi Waaka and the late Sir James Hēnare.
Made by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in the mid 1960s, this half hour TV documentary sets out to summarise New Zealand. More than a promotional video, it takes a wider view, examining both the country’s points of pride and some of its troubles. In a brief appearance Barry Crump kills a pig, although the narration is quick to point out that the ‘good keen man’ image he epitomises is also a root of the country’s problem alcohol consumption. The result is patriotic, but certainly not uncritical. Writer Tony Isaac went on to make landmark bicultural dramas Pukemanu and The Governor.
In this 2011 Jam TV series, reporter Hadyn Jones motors around Aotearoa in a 1966 Ford Falcon and caravan to meet the locals. He starts his engine in Dargaville, where he meets mechanic Ken, who gets the 'blue beast' going; Ange, a mother of three who got a burnout car for her wedding anniversary; he chats with axe-man Jason Wynyard at the Arapohue A&P Show; plus a heap of Dalmatian Kiwis. Critic Karl du Fresne rated the series appointment viewing, with Jones possessing a "rare knack of being able to make them [interviewees] relax and reveal themselves on camera."
Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities roam the landscape, devouring everything in their path. Tom (Robert Sheehan, from TV's Misfits) lives in London, a 'predator' city built on digger-like tracks. After encountering a mysterious fugitive with murder in mind, he finds himself touching bare earth for the first time. Showcasing the eye-opening imagery of Weta Digital, Mortal Engines is based on a book by Brit Philip Reeve. It marks the first feature directed by Christian Rivers (short film Feeder). The Weta veteran began as a storyboard artist for Peter Jackson.
Alongside co-starring in classic office comedy Gliding On, Susan Wilson has acted in drama series Pioneer Women and a host of stage roles. This Funny As interview sees her touching on several subjects, including: Still being recognised for her Gliding On role as straight-talking office worker Beryl — which she played for five seasons Feeling lucky she got to play an early feminist role model on-screen — "Beryl usually solved the dilemma of the episode in some way, while all the men just couldn't cope" Lamenting the lack of diverse roles for women in the 1970s: "the girlfriend in the background, or the silly typist with the nail varnish on the desk" Working with playwright Roger Hall at Wellington's Circa Theatre: "He's always been able to capture whatever it is that's important that's going on around us" The "amazing, genius comedy" of John Clarke, witnessed while acting with him onstage in Wellington
Between 1975 and 1983, London-born variety artist Chic Littlewood entertained a generation of Kiwi kids, writing and presenting 500 plus episodes of his after school shows Now C Here, Chicaboom and Chic Chat — appearing with Alma Woods, puppet Willie McNabb, and as Gramps. In 1993 Littlewood enjoyed a primetime career revival, after starting a three year stint on Shortland Street. He passed away on 11 January 2015.
Tawa-raised Carmel McGlone drifted into acting while studying music. Since then she has performed on both sides of the Tasman, and played Aunt Daisy, Lady Macbeth, Marilyn Monroe, and a gormless male in Digger and Nudger. McGlone’s first sizable screen role was an “enormously enjoyable” six months on 80s TV series Marching Girls. More recently she appeared in web hit Reservoir Hill, and starred in Hook, Line and Sinker.