Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
This Intrepid Journey sees comedian Rhys Darby taking a Rwandan OE. In the excerpts Darby makes lots of friends in the markets of capital city Kigali, then heads on a jungle adventure. Far from the New York office of his Flight of the Conchords character Murray, he searches for critically endangered mountain gorillas. Darby is guided by François — a personable and entertaining park ranger, fluent in primate dialect — whose aping gives Darby a run for his money in gorilla impersonation. Darby is quietened by a sombre genocide memorial, and a 200 kilogram silverback.
Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt ventures into the wilds of Borneo for this full-length Intrepid Journeys episode. His time in the jungles of Malaysia's Sabah region proves to be both beautiful and frightening; his sleeping arrangements are "pure unadulterated hell". After pushing himself to the limit climbing Mount Kinabalu and encountering a lethal pit viper snake, Shadbolt is moved by visits to sea turtles on Turtle Island, and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. Orangutans are endangered in the area because they are losing their forest habitat to palm oil plantations.
This documentary tells the tenuous survivor story of the kākāpō: the nocturnal flightless green parrot with "big sideburns and Victorian gentlemen's face" (as comedian Stephen Fry put it). A sole breeding population for the evolutionary oddity (the world's largest parrot; it can live up to 120 years) is marooned on remote Codfish Island. The award-winning film had rare access to the recovery programme and its dramatic challenges. This excerpt sees a rugged journey to the island to search for a kākāpō named 'Bill', and witnesses the "bizarre ballad" of its mating boom.
With over 30 years experience in the television industry, Michael Stedman has done just about everything behind the cameras. He began as an editor and moved on to directing and producing for TVNZ. While there he produced shows such as Beauty and the Beast, University Challenge and numerous sport and news programmes. He has held senior positions at television networks in New Zealand and Australia, and is currently the Managing Director at Natural History New Zealand.
A kārearea named Fern handles the storytelling duties in this child-friendly documentary about New Zealand’s only falcon. Fern (voiced by ex Māori TV newsreader Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne) introduces some of the other kārearea who live at the Marlborough Falcon Trust, then brings out her human friend Diana, who sadly “can’t fly yet”. Fern and Diana meet a group of children and show them the aerobatics of Aotearoa’s only endemic raptor species, while talking about the threats the falcons face. The trust aims to ensure the endangered birds have a future.
Actor Willa O'Neill won awards for her work in two 90s movie hits: Dunedin student thriller Scarfies, and ensemble piece Topless Women Talk about their Lives.
Although better known as a songwriter and a spirited champion of New Zealand music, Arthur Baysting made a number of contributions to the screen. In the 1970s he was a scriptwriter on breakthrough dramas Winners & Losers and Sleeping Dogs, while his white-clad alter ego Neville Purvis graced both cabaret stages and a short-lived TV series. He passed away on 3 December 2019.
Always happy to share his face with a wētā, entomologist and 'Bug Man' Ruud Kleinpaste is one of the insect world’s best friends. After moving to New Zealand from Holland in 1978, his work with MAF created a media profile for him which led to a long-running radio show, and a television career that saw Buggin’ with Ruud, his show for American cable network Animal Planet, screen in over 60 countries.
Fascinated by every stage of the television process, Zane Holmes began in the backroom as an editor and has gone on to stints in producing, directing and visual effects. After getting his directing break on hit Being Eve, he later joined Jeremy Dillon as a partner in company Pop-Up Workshop,which specialises in shows for children. They followed series Pop-Up with The Moe Show, starring a friendly creature with big ears.