Biographer Michael King takes us through the life of pioneering writer Frank Sargeson: from puritanical parents to self-discovery in London, through to decades encouraging an emerging tide of New Zealand writers. The documentary’s most priceless moments are the tales told when four of those writers return to Sargeson’s fabled fibrolite bach, in Takapuna. Kevin Ireland calls it an “oasis, this marvellous place where books ruled supreme”. Sargeson’s purposefuly minimalistic writing style, the doco argues, helped NZ literature find its own voice.
When Frank Sanft’s older brother was killed early in World War ll, it only intensified Frank’s determination to serve. Joining the Royal Navy, he was eventually assigned to Operation PLUTO, which involved laying an undersea fuel pipeline between the UK and Cherbourg (vital in keeping Allied vehicles moving, directly after the invasion of France). Frank laughs now at a close call with a sniper ashore in France. Serving in the Pacific, he was there after Singapore’s notorious Changi PoW camp was liberated. In 2017 Sanft was awarded a prestigious French Legion of Honour.
Using the power of documentary film Frank Chilton made a difference to the lives of disabled children in New Zealand and around the world. The films he directed for the National Film Unit won many awards and he was honoured by the Queen with an OBE for services to the handicapped.
The broadcasting career of so-called 'Mr Country Calendar' Frank Torley spanned almost half a century. He worked on the iconic rural series as reporter, producer and narrator, and a number of other programmes besides. In 2002, he was awarded the ONZM for services to broadcasting. Torley died of cancer on 27 March 2016, just weeks after Country Calendar celebrated its 50th year on air.
Actor Frank Whitten first won attention in 1984, playing the enigmatic farmer in Vincent Ward's breakthrough feature Vigil. Later he was known to many for his role as the Southern Man in the Speights "onya mate" commercials, and his ongoing appearances in Outrageous Fortune, playing the manipulative grandfather to the West clan. He died in February 2011.
The late Frank Torley was a Kiwi television legend, forever known as that Country Calendar guy - he variously narrated, directed, produced, and reported for the show over more than 40 years. But Torley hadn’t always been Mr Rural. He also spent time as a newsreader, Top Town presenter, documentary maker (including an early doco on AIDs), and producing religious programmes.
Launched on 5 April 1976, Winners & Losers heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its 2018 restoration. Plus watch two video interviews on the series.
Gerard Smyth's acclaimed documentary about the Christchurch earthquakes is the story of people coping — for better or worse — with the huge physical and emotional toll that the quakes, and continuing aftershocks, inflicted on them, their homes and their city. It began as a home movie while the devastation of September was surveyed (with thanks given that no-one had been killed); but, as shooting of the recovery continued, the February quake compounded the destruction and claimed 182 lives (including their researcher and 16 colleagues at CTV).
Barefoot Cinema looks at the "art and life" of Alun Bollinger, whom Peter Jackson calls "the finest lighting cameraman that the country has ever produced." Goodbye Pork Pie, Vigil, Heavenly Creatures ... the path of the man known as 'AlBol' is like a screen industry growth chart. But the film is as much an affectionate account of the values and family of a "greenie good keen man", shaped around his four decades-long relationship with wife Helen. In this excerpt, 'AlBol' nails down iron in the rain at his West Coast home, and he and Peter Jackson reflect on their collaborations.
Aged 50, Jean Watson sold her Wellington house to buy land for a children’s home in southern India. In 2013 filmmaker Gerard Smyth (director of acclaimed quake chronicle When a City Falls) spent two months in India, chronicling Watson and some of the many lives she has changed. Smyth’s documentary also harks back to the 60s, when Watson wrote novel Stand in the Rain, and hunted crocodiles with Barry Crump. The result won solid audiences at the 2014 NZ Film Festival. The Listener gave it four stars; “Unpretentious but unashamedly enjoyable” said The Dominion Post.