This acclaimed TV series heads to Aotearoa’s heartland, dispensing with narration or a city slicker presenter so that local personalities can represent themselves. The opening episode travels to the West Coast to meet the 'Coasters' who live there: from publicans, prospectors and bushmen, to sheila truck drivers, knitting drag queens and musical theatre directors. The Dominion Post’s Karl du Fresne wrote of the show: "Producer Melanie Rakena has done a superb job seeking out engaging characters with interesting stories and allowing them to tell them in their own way."
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
A rod and rally race is the angle for this 1969 light comedy. Legendary angler ‘Maggots’ McClure lures “glamour boy” lawyer and fishing novice Applejoy (Peter Vere-Jones) into a contest to catch three trophy fish in Russell, Taupō, and Waitaki. The old dunga versus Alvis ‘Speed 20’, north versus south duel transfixes the nation; snags, shags and scenic diversion ensue. Directed by noted UK documentary maker Derek Williams, the caper was made with NFU help and funded by energy company BP. It showed with Gregory Peck western The Stalking Mood in New Zealand theatres.
In this full-length Intrepid Journey actor/director Katie Wolfe takes her "appalling sense of direction" to China, a country caught between old ways and new. Wolfe travels by plane, boat, cyclo and train, which she calls "the perfect way to travel". She does three days in the Blade Runner-like cityscapes of Shanghai, where she meets an 86-year-old dancer, and visits the Forbidden City of Beijing. Wolfe also heads up the Yangtze River, visiting ghostly cities and apartment blocks, drained of people by major dam construction — before stumbling upon a most effective way to haggle.
When gold fever hit Central Otago in the late 19th century, hundreds of Chinese immigrants were among the hopeful prospectors. They were a quiet community scraping a living in harsh conditions, hoping to save money for families back home. This report for Contact follows the work of archaeologist Neville Ritchie, who in 1981 led one of Aotearoa's "biggest archaelogical operations" yet — an excavation of Cromwell's Chinatown, the makeshift village left to nature after the last miner died. It was part of wider research of the area, before new dams put some of the history underwater.
There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.