New Zealand Mirror was a National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series aimed at showcasing Aotearoa to the British market. A Whangarei clock collector is a quirky choice to open this edition of Kiwi reflections. His display includes a clock that goes backwards. The ensuing segments are more in keeping with Māoriland and Shaky Isles postcard expectations. The annual Ngāruawāhia waka regatta includes novelty canoe hurdle races. There are also dramatic shots of 6000 foot high “cauliflower clouds” from Ruapehu’s 1945 eruption, and of the crater lake turned to seething lava.
When Mount Tarawera erupted on 10 June 1886, it took over 100 lives. It was also thought to have destroyed the Pink and White Terraces on Lake Rotomahana, then hailed as the eighth wonder of the natural world. This documentary follows a team of New Zealand and American scientists — led by Kiwi geologist Cornel de Ronde — as they scour the lake floor, to see if any traces of the legendary structures remain. Also examined are the area's history, and the lead-up to the eruption. In 2018 de Ronde robustly criticised a theory that the remains of the terraces were now partly on land.
Since scrapping a career as a teacher in 1978, actor Desmond Kelly has appeared on screen in more than 40 roles. Often playing the straight-talking working class Kiwi bloke, Kelly has contributed memorable performances to Smash Palace (as Bruno's co-mechanic), The Scarecrow (as the hero's Dad), Springbok Tour telefeature Rage (as rugby union boss Ces Blazey) and as the swagman co-star in TV series Jocko.
Although he trained as a geologist, Craig Gainsborough has gone on to accrue a run of producing credits— from music videos and commercials, to documentaries (include caving short Luckie Strike and films on ADHD and palliative care). His dramatic credits include 48 Hour Film Festival national runner-up Tide, Michael Duignan comedy Ten Thousand Days, and teenage farm-boy tale Thicket, which won the Wallace Friends of the Civic Award at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival. Gainsborough's work as director includes co-directing girl and dog story Stay.
The late Margaret Thomson is arguably the first New Zealand woman to have directed films. Thomson spent much of her film career working in England, plus two years back in New Zealand at the National Film Unit. Her NFU short Railway Worker (1948) is regarded as a classic.
Roger Donaldson is notable for spearheading the New Zealand film renaissance with Sleeping Dogs (1977). He has been busy directing in Hollywood for much of the period since. Donaldson's first Kiwi story since acclaimed drama Smash Palace (1981) was Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) — the most successful New Zealand film on home soil until the arrival of Taika Waititi's Boy in 2010.