Veteran weatherman Jim Hickey sums up A Flying Visit at the start of the first episode: “We’re going to be visiting some of the more unusual and out of the way places, and I’ll be chatting with the locals and they can tell me what makes their little place tick”. He touches his Cessna 182 down on NZ’s northernmost airstrip, meets a pig hunting nana, flies by the lighthouse and Ninety Mile Beach, then crosses to Russell to meet a boogie-boarding dog, a lawn-mowing goat, a uniquely-painted ute — and check out some history. Then it's a flying visit to giant kauri Tāne Mahuta and its kai cart.
The father of veteran weatherman Jim Hickey was a Spitfire pilot during World War II. In this early 2000s series, made while Hickey junior was senior weathercaster at TVNZ, he channels his heritage and flies a Cessna 182 around New Zealand airstrips, taking the pulse of the people and landscapes peculiar to each region. The airborne Heartland was one of a series of programmes that he made with producer Dave Mason, under their Rustic Road Productions banner (starting with Jim’s Car Show in 2000). Hickey would later open cafes at Queenstown and New Plymouth airports.
This edition of the National Film Unit’s wartime newsreel series tracks the 1000s of New Zealand prisoners of war being repatriated from Germany, shortly after VE Day. “Men from all over the world are here. Waiting to get out. Waiting to get back to their homes …” The ANZACs travel to a transit centre in Brussels, where they enjoy “a first real beer in years” and go sightseeing, before crossing the North Sea to be hosted in England, where thoughts turn south. The reel ends with a rousing rendition of the Māori Battalion marching song in an English pub.
On the Samoan island of Sapepe, the rebellious, pranksterish young Pepe (Faifua Amiga) rejects his imported Christianity and declares himself a descendant of the old gods, setting himself on a path of alienation and conflict. In this excerpt, he leads a burglary of his father's store and burns down a church on the streets of Apia. Adapted from two works by Albert Wendt and shot with a local and largely amateur crew, Martyn Sanderson's first feature is emboldened by vivid cinematography and Kingpin-star Amiga's unforced charisma in the lead role.
This documentary tells the story of the legendary Flying Nun music label up to its 21st birthday. The label became associated with the 'Dunedin Sound': a catch-all term for a sprawl of DIY, post-punk, warped, jangly guitar-pop. The Guardian: "[it's] as if being on the other side of the world meant the music was played upside down". Features interviews with founder Roger Shepherd and many key players, the spats and the glory. The label's influence on the US indie scene is noted, and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus covers The Verlaines' 'Death and the Maiden'.
Wellington trio Connan and the Mockasins spent much of their time channelling 1960's blues pop/rock — but this brief, sparse outing from their debut EP Naughty Holidays sees them tapping into a more ethereal strain of pastoral pyschedelia from the same era. Director Sam Handley’s clip (shot at Mangakino near Taupō) places the band on board an enchanted river boat, spreading delicate notes like pixie dust along the way under the watchful eye of one of the cliff faces. Connan, not unreasonably, plays a wind-up clock complete with lamps.
Record label Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music, and with autonomous DIY, bottom-of-the-world creativity. This collection celebrates the label's ethos as manifested in the music videos. Selected by label founder Roger Shepherd: "A general style may have loosely evolved ... but it was simply due to limited budgets and correspondingly unlimited imaginations."
'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
DIY first flyer Richard Pearse aptly leads off this three-part 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the survey of the pioneers of the “birdman’s art” covers daredevil balloonists, World War I fighter pilots, flying bishops, and frontrunners like the Walsh bros and George Bolt. A forgotten silver treasure from the archives is footage of Percy Fisher’s monoplane, filmed on a hand-cranked movie camera in the Wairarapa in 1913. The series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.
The Listener called the kids music of Fatcat & Fishface “like Tom Waits’ toy cupboard. The perfect antidote to Barney”. This ditty (from 2004’s Pretty Ugly album) came from a collaboration with the Department of Conservation and bypasses the cuddly usual suspects — kiwi etc — to celebrate the unlikely charms of the bat fly. The blind, flightless fly lives symbiotically on the native short-tailed bat: “So what if I like guano … I like it for a snack / There’s nothing like guano … from a bat!” The stop motion animation by Carlos Wedde is suitably Tim Burton-esque.