This Intrepid Journey sees comedian Rhys Darby taking a Rwandan OE. In the excerpts Darby makes lots of friends in the markets of capital city Kigali, then heads on a jungle adventure. Far from the New York office of his Flight of the Conchords character Murray, he searches for critically endangered mountain gorillas. Darby is guided by François — a personable and entertaining park ranger, fluent in primate dialect — whose aping gives Darby a run for his money in gorilla impersonation. Darby is quietened by a sombre genocide memorial, and a 200 kilogram silverback.
Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show for both TV3 and Wellington production company Gibson Group. In this first episode from the second series, spies, skateboarders, Kiwi mateship, and All Black Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Along the way, Murray Keane plays both an Australian mocking New Zealand place names, and a true blue Kiwi; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; kids argue about the best kind of lunch; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan (David Downs) interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.
Peter Jackson's love affair with moviemaking and special effects was ignited by seeing the original King Kong (1933) as a child. Jackson's Kiwi-shot remake takes one of cinema's most iconic monster movies, retains the 30s setting and iconic New York finale, and toughens up the "beauty" (Naomi Watts). The film also transforms the male (non-ape) lead from lunkhead to sensitive playwright (Adrien Brody). Exhilarating, Oscar-winning CGI brings the great ape to life, alongside rampaging dinosaurs, and oversized wētā inexplicably absent from the maligned 1976 remake.
Company JAM TV have made a speciality of successfully mixing idiosyncratic hosts with travel destinations (Intrepid Journeys, Off the Rails). For this series, comedian Te Radar explores "big picture questions" (pollution, power, waste and water), while visiting people "making a difference" everywhere from Blenheim to Brunei, from Tonga to Rwanda. Global Radar had two seasons on TV One (in 2011 and 2013) and won a NZ Television Award for Best Information Series (it was nominated for Best Presenter). Radar picked Rwanda's 'goats for gorillas' programme as a personal highlight.
Playwright Roger Hall visits Uganda in Africa for this Intrepid Journey. He finds the going tough at times, particularly some rough accommodation and worries about malaria, but delights that he got to see lions and gorillas in their natural habitat, and is moved by the efforts of the Ugandan people to triumph over their "hideous recent history". This excerpt sees Hall white water rafting on the Nile, and getting a memorable warning speech about one of the rapids by a guide. He "loses his Nile virginity" after getting tipped out, and ending up under the raft for a few scary seconds.
By 1976 there were only seven Chatham Islands black robins left. It was the world's rarest bird. In a bid to save the species, the surviving birds were taken from one island to another more hospitable island in a desperate rescue mission. This was part of an incredible conservation success story led by Don Merton and his NZ Wildlife Service team. Seven Black Robins and Project Takahē captured viewers' imaginations as part of an acclaimed series of 'rare bird' films that screened on TV series Wild South. They helped forge the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).
In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the conservation ante was extreme. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts ranged from abseiling the birds (including the 'Eve' of her species, 'Old Blue') down cliff faces, to left-field libido spurs. This 1988 Listener Film and TV award-winner united two earlier Wild South documentaries, and updated the robin’s rescue story to 1987. It originally screened on Christmas Day 1987, before being modified for this 1989 edition.
“These three birds are over half the world population of their species.” Peter Hayden’s narration lays bare the stakes for the Chatham Island black robin, and the Wildlife Service team (led by Don Merton) trying to save them. Merton’s innovative methods include removing eggs from nests – to encourage the last two females to lay again – and placing them in riroriro (grey warbler) foster homes. The black robin documentaries helped forge the reputation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit. Paul Stanley Ward writes about the documentaries here, and the mission to save the black robin.
Australian-raised Melanie Rodriga (née Read) moved to New Zealand in 1977, and worked as an editor. After adapting Keri Hulme story Hooks and Feelers, she wrote and directed feminist thriller Trial Run in 1983. In 1988 Rodriga was a best director finalist for pioneering TV drama The Marching Girls. Rodriga now lectures in film at Perth’s Murdoch University and continues to make and develop films.
Robin Laing began her long career as a producer with 1985's Mr Wrong, the first of many projects she has worked on with director Gaylene Preston. In 1993 Laing was awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the New Zealand film industry.