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Weekly Review No. 280 - Patterns in Flax

Short Film, 1947 (Full Length)

This Weekly Review pays respect to the traditional Māori art of raranga (or weaving), and looks at the industrialisation of New Zealand flax (harakeke) processing. The episode features a factory in Foxton where Māori designs are incorporated into modern floor coverings. Patterns in Flax features some great footage of the harvesting and drying of flax plants, and shots of immense (now obsolete) flax farms.

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Te Rauparaha

Short Film, 1972 (Full Length)

This NFU mini-biopic eulogises the 19th Century Māori leader Te Rauparaha. The Ngāti Toa chief led his people on an exodus from Kāwhia, to a stronghold on Kāpiti Island where he reigned — via musket, flax trade and diplomacy — over a Cook Strait empire extending south to Akaroa. The free-ranging film includes recreations of the 'Wairau Incident' (that stirred fears of Māori uprising amidst settlers); Te Rauparaha’s ignominious 1846 arrest by Governor Grey; and the 1849 reburial on Kapiti of the "cannibal statesman" (evocatively rendered using inverted colours).

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Off the Beaten Track

Television, 1973 (Full Length)

Sir Ed Hillary, then in his early 50s, acts as tour guide to remote New Zealand. In the far north he receives a tokotoko (walking stick) and admires the Aupōuri people’s connection with the land. He goes bush and dives for scallops off Stewart Island and fishes on a Hollyford sandspit. In the Alps he tackles a 1971 grand traverse of Mount Cook with Harry Ayres and other mates. Not bad for a self-described "middle-aged family man who has tried to keep himself reasonably fit". Sir Ed narrates, and his down-to-earth passion for adventure makes this an inspiring travelogue.

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Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant, James Cook

Short Film, 1970 (Full Length)

One of the last films made by Jeremy Sykes before his death in the Antarctic in a helicopter accident, this NFU short commemorates the 1969 Cook bicentennial. It traces Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand and his charting of the coastline. Contemporary illustrations and dramatic camerawork are used to follow his six-month journey around Aotearoa. It also highlights Cook's navigational skills as he sailed the Endeavour, home to 94 men, two greyhounds and a goat, through uncharted waters, helping earn him his reputation as "explorer extraordinary and servant of the King".

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War Years

Film, 1983 (Full Length)

This 1983 film looks at New Zealand in World War II, via a compilation of footage from the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series, which screened in NZ cinemas from 1941 to 1946. It begins with Prime Minister Savage’s “where Britain goes, we go” speech, and covers campaigns in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, and life on the home front. The propaganda film excerpts are augmented with narration and graphics giving context to the war effort. Helen Martin called it "a fascinating record of documentary filmmaking at a crucial time in the country’s history".

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The Early Days

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

Made for the Post Office, this 1971 National Film Unit documentary offers a potted history of New Zealand, using postage stamps as the frame. Director David Sims ranges from Māori rock drawings, to Tasman and Cook. Once Pākehā settlers arrive, the film offers a narrative of progress (aside from two world wars) leading to nationhood and industry. Archive photographs, paintings, Edwardian-era scenes and reenactments add to the subjects illustrated on the stamps. The stamps include New Zealand’s first: a full-face portrait of Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon.

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Great War Stories - Mark Briggs

Television, 2014 (Full Length Episode)

This slot in TV3’s Great War Stories series looks at Kiwi conscientious objector Mark Briggs. In World War I imprisonment faced those who objected to doing their bit for King and country on moral grounds. In 1917 unionist Briggs and 13 others (including Archibald Baxter) were shipped to the front and made an example of via ‘Field Punishment No.1’, which saw the pacifists bound to a post in the open, then forced into the trenches. Archive material and art by Wellington's Bob Kerr depict the torture in this short documentary, which screened during 3 News in 2014.

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Catching the Tide - Sam Hunt's Cook Strait

Film, 1988 (Full Length)

Poet Sam Hunt goes "between islands" on a home turf tour. To a backdrop of languid 'good day' Strait's scenery, he yarns with locals about stories of land and sea, and recites poetry: "[it's all about just] standing back and listening ... or watching". He chats with poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, goes groper fishing off Mana, and hears of a plan to float on a flax flutterboard across the Strait. Hunt then gets himself across via ferry for whaling stories at Oxley's Rock pub and meets boatbuilders and Cape Jackson farmers. The Costa Botes film includes (brutal) archival whaling footage.

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E Tipu E Rea - Eel

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

A teenage boy (Lance Wharewaka) should be at school, but instead learns about the bush and the old days from his ailing grand uncle (Bill Tawhai). The friendship prepares the boy with the necessary skills for life. Written by poet Hone Tuwhare, Eel marked the drama directing debut of TV3 newsreader and Wild South presenter Joanna Paul."He [Bill] brought a mana with him and has such irreplaceable Māori knowledge," said Paul, who remembered him discussing "how he used bobs to catch eels. He remembers using flax — you can't buy knowledge like that."

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Steve Abel and Kirsten Morrell

Alt-folk rocker Steve Abel started playing the guitar at 15, before progressing to writing his own songs. He wowed critics with his debut album Little Death in 2006. It featured a host of Kiwi talent, including Goldenhorse's Kirsten Morell, on ‘Duet (Lonely I Be)' and was named 2006 Alternatui Album of the Year. Teaming up with his band the Chrysalids, Abel's last album Flax Happy was also well received, described by one laconic Kiwi reviewer as "Wonderful. Actually, beyond wonderful."