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."
November 2014 marks 25 years since New Zealand TV’s third channel began broadcasting. This 25th birthday sampler pack looks back at iconic drama (Outrageous Fortune), upstart news shows (Nightline), fresh youth programming (Ice TV, Being Eve) and comedy high watermarks (bro’Town, Jaquie Brown, 7 Days). As the launch slogan said "come home to the feeling!"
In the late 1980s, Kiwi inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway; in 1991, as an unlikely underdog, he came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. But when they get to Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle which includes at least ten major innovations.
The Colombo Plan was a Commonwealth “federation of neighbours” which aimed to counter communism in Asia by providing development aid in the area's poorer countries. This National Film Unit short, directed by future NFU manager David H Fowler, ranges across Asia as it surveys New Zealand’s contributions to the postwar plan: funding hospitals, agriculture and education in Indonesia, Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo, Pakistan and India. The film also visits Colombo students in their home countries, passing on skills that they learned while studying at NZ universities.
On 09 July 2002 the ruling Labour Party was under pressure on the Genetic Engineering (GE) issue, when John Campbell confronted Prime Minister Helen Clark over the suspected release of GE corn seed in 2000. In a 3 News special a fired-up Campbell, informed by Nicky Hager's yet-to-be-published Seeds of Distrust, alleged there had been a cover up. Upset at what she perceived as an ambush, Clark reacted tersely; she later labelled Campbell a "sanctimonious little creep". With a general election looming, the encounter was dubbed 'Corngate'.
Evan Short, one half of drum and bass duo Concord Dawn, talks about electronic music making in this episode from a series made for high school students. Appropriately, he first met future collaborator Matt Harvey in school music lessons and they later reconnected as drum and bass fans while studying audio engineering. To the thundering accompaniment of Concord Dawn’s student radio hit 'Morning Light', Short discusses hardware, software for beginners, the importance of developing good "ears", and the international recognition they have received.
This Army recruiting film was made while New Zealand was still involved in the Vietnam War. While its emphasis is on the various trades, such as carpentry, engineering and radio operation, which can be learned in the army, it doesn't shy away from the purely military aspects. Soldiers are trained in unarmed combat, parachuting and jungle warfare. Exercises at the Waiouru Army Camp involving armoured support are also featured. Women are included, but in 1966 they fulfil roles in signals and nursing to free up men for combat duties.
Christchurch based Paua Productions set out to document the effects of the city’s 4 September earthquake in 2010 but found themselves overtaken by the tragic events of 22 February 22. Their focus is the experiences of everyday people coping with the destruction of large tracts of their city, significant injuries and major loss of life as liquefaction, ruined homes and thousands of aftershocks prolong the initial trauma. A number of the interviewees were followed over a year, as they struggled to come to terms with what had happened and move on.
The first instalment of this two part documentary chronicles the effects of Christchurch’s September 2010 earthquake on a variety of everyday people. They have seen damage to their city they would never have imagined, houses have been destroyed, liquefaction has entered their vocabulary and the ground beneath their feet can no longer be trusted. Miraculously, there has been no loss of life. As seismologists seek to understand what happened, the interviewees tentatively rebuild disrupted lives, but the fatal quakes of 22 February cruelly derail that recovery.
Set in a world where animal is vegetable and the creepy crawlies are just that, this short film showcases the trippy talents of animators Joe Wylie (Kiwi classics Te Rerenga Wairua, Bride of Frankenstein) and John Robertson (internationally lauded for his commercials work). Following a nightwatchman whose meddling kicks evolution into overdrive at the pesticide factory, the film injects a chirruping, clanking ambient score into a petri dish of Naked Lunch, The Fly and and some B-movie black comedy. It was selected for France's Annecy Animation Festival in 1993.