For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.
In each episode of this TVNZ show, a well-known Kiwi takes the pulse of a neighbourhood they are connected to. In this debut episode, musician King Kapisi (aka Bill Urale) guides viewers around Newtown, the cosmopolitan Wellington neighbourhood where he was born. He revisits his childhood, meets a Greek easter egg maker, a muslim ritual cleanser, African music advocate Sam 'Mr Newtown' Manzana, and a Mexican making skateboard art. The NZ Herald’s Paul Casserly called the show "beautifully shot, feel-good TV, reminiscent of the superb Living Room series."
A group of young tourists charter a yacht and go cruising in the South Pacific. In a dense fog, they come across an old, sick Greek man on a sinking boat and rescue him. They have no idea of how evil he is and how brutal their night is to become. Thanks to the special weapon he is holding, this man has the power to inhabit other people's bodies. The Ferryman approaches - he's after the old Greek as the path to the afterlife is close and there is a payment to be made.
This BBC2-screened film is a look at the European art world of the late 1960s, and a meditation on the nature of art and the pricing of art, shot by Tony Williams. The origins of this film are suitably cosmopolitan. It was initiated by an Iranian student – and underwritten by Jeremy Fry from Cadbury Fry Hudson. Its focus is Takis, a Greek artist who creates kinetic sculptures out of discarded electronic objects (at times reminiscent of Len Lye’s work), and plans to mass produce cheaper versions of his work to make his art accessible. But will it still be art?
This Loose Enz edition follows a theatre group developing a play about Greek Gods. The full gamut of am-dram tropes are featured: know-all director, a lecherous lead (Jeffrey Thomas), zealous extras, drunk techies, an existential playwright (Colin McColl), shambolic dress rehearsal etc. Estranged couple Tom (Grant Tilly) and Helen (Liddy Holloway) find the play’s lofty themes echoed in more earthly realities. With a who’s who of NZ luvvies of the era it’s not quite Carry On, but there are japes aplenty, the show must go on, and it’ll be all right on the night.
Framed around a visit to New Zealand by Irish-born entertainer Danny La Rue, this all-singing all-dancing spectacular was recorded over three days in March 1980. The “fella in a frock” was famed for his drag acts and double entendres. Comedians Jon Gadsby and David McPhail provide local support as Marlene Dietrich visits a farm, Mae West visits the All Blacks changing room, and Margaret Thatcher meets Robert Muldoon (McPhail). Filmed at Avalon Studios, the revue was a co-production with London Weekend Television, made during the golden era of NZ TV variety shows.
Māori Battalion - March To Victory tells the story of the New Zealand Army's (28th) Māori Battalion, which fought in campaigns during World War ll. Director and writer Tainui Stephens sets out in the feature-length documentary to tell the stories of five men who served with the unit, and also "capture how they felt about it". Narration by actor George Henare, remembrances, visits to historic sites, archival footage, and graphic stills create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion. Stephens writes about the film in the backgrounder.
International chart-topper Kimbra Johnson did a lot of musical growing up in public. Twelve months after featuring on kids' TV show What Now?, and two years before her first Rockquest success, this NZ Music Commission piece offers a tantalising glimpse of her as a remarkably unselfconscious 12-year-old — working with schools' music mentor Chris Diprose at her Hamilton intermediate. She's already very comfortable with the recording process and considerably more advanced in her music making than some off-camera classmates, who provide an unseen Greek chorus.
In this short film Peter Wells makes a personal 'Postcard from New Zealand' as part of a series for England's Channel Four. Looking for a "Kiwi Greek god" to showcase his "Gay Lynn" garden, he enlists Richard, third place getter in Mr Gay Auckland. While posing Richard tells them about his costume for the Sydney Mardi Gras. "Skirt in the shape of Rangitoto, a hat like Auckland's Harbour Bridge: Dame Edna would've loved it". Richard models the costume which also features budgie smugglers with 'NZ' sequined into them, a Southern Cross singlet, and ugg-glove sheep puppets.