This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
This film records the devising of a “work in progress” by theatre director Ashley Thorndyke (Jason Hoyte). The concept — by Duncan Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Scarfies) — mocks the gamut of thesp and drama school cliches: from ‘wanky’ director to wacky warm-up exercises (animal impersonations, primal screams, Love Boat theme song). Peter Burger, fresh out of Broadcasting School, co-directs, and the willing cast is drawn from the 90s Wellington theatre scene orbiting around Bats and Victoria University. Future Conchord Jemaine Clement memorably learns to get loose.
Low-tech legend Chris Knox is an accomplished musician, cartoonist, critic, filmmaker, and jandal wearer. As this collection demonstrates, his genius takes flight in the DIY aesthetic of his music videos. As Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd says in his backgrounder, “this is a unique and important collection of work perfectly illustrating what is possible with the barest of resources and a free-wheeling imagination”. Russell Brown adds his view here. Alongside music videos, the collection also includes interviews with Knox and profiles of bands Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs.
On a Tuesday evening in April 1968, the ferry Wahine set out from Lyttelton for Wellington. Around 6am the next morning, cyclone-fuelled winds surged in strength as it began to enter Wellington Harbour. At 1.30pm, with the ferry listing heavily to starboard, the call was finally made for 734 passengers and crew to abandon ship. The news coverage and documentaries in this collection explore the Wahine disaster from many angles. Meanwhile Keith Aberdein — one of the TV reporters who was there — explores his memories and regrets over that fateful day on 10 April 1968.
Made for the 50th anniversary of Air New Zealand, Reaching for the Skies takes a journey through New Zealand’s aviation history — from claims that Richard Pearse flew before the Wright brothers and early attempts at Trans-Tasman travel, to the establishment of Tasman Empire Airways and the modern airliner. Vintage aircraft feature, with biplanes and single engine aircraft, as well as rare Solent flying boats. Interviewees talk about their desire to form a new private airline after the war, only to be denied, and the importance of having a national carrier in New Zealand.
In the 1930s Jean Batten broke solo distance flying records and achieved international fame. Directed by her biographer, Ian Mackersey, Garbo of the Skies chronicles Batten's life through archive footage, interviews, narration from her unpublished memoirs and reconstructions of her epic flights. The documentary also reveals a lonely private world: a domineering mother, romantic tragedy, a fall into obscurity, and death in a Majorcan hotel (a mystery finally solved during the film's making). Garbo of the Skies screened on TVNZ, the Discovery Channel and the BBC.
These excerpts from arts show The Living Room mark an early screen appearance for "jungle folk comedy duo" Flight of the Conchords. Starting in Wellington and building to performances at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the item sees longtime colleague Taika Waititi playing the duo's wisetalking manager, pre Rhys Darby. After meeting Jonah Lomu at the airport, dreams of fame face cramped digs and the intense competition of Edinburgh. The duo handle things with their droll resolve. The following year the Conchords were nominated for a Perrier Award, en route to stardom.
Lead Brunettes Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield became the poster boy and girl for Kiwi bubblegum pop with the 2002 release of debut album Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks. Signed to label Lil' Chief Records at home, growing international interest saw the band sign with American label Sub Pop (alongside Flight of the Conchords). The Brunettes put out four albums and three EPs, before calling it a day in 2009.
From modest beginnings at informal sessions at Wellington institution Deluxe Cafe (beside Embassy Theatre on Kent Terrace), the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra has ridden the crest of the diminutive instrument's revival. Live favourites around the country, they have recorded a string of EPs featuring massed ukulele renditions of 80s favourites along with the occasional dash of Kiwiana and more contemporary numbers. Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie was a founder member of the accomplished strummers.
Some of the great names of All Blacks rugby appear in this documentary, which was made before the 2003 World Cup. They tell the story of the highs and lows of New Zealand’s national game across a century of tours. From cruel violence in the early days to the skills of a top team in full flight, The Test provides the views of players, commentators and coaches. This excerpt concentrates on sometimes bruising encounters between the All Blacks and the Springboks, from the 1920s up to 1956. The Test was named Best TV Sports Programme at the 2003 Qantas Media Awards.