This long-running travelling TV game show pitted towns against each other in a series of physical challenges. Leveraging nostalgia for a fast-fading time when NZ's population (and identity) resided in rural hub towns, Top Town was Kiwi light-entertainment gold. This 1977 final, presented by Howard Morrison and radio host Paddy O'Donnell, features short shorts, jockettes, greasy poles, 'balloon baloney', and beautiful scorer Theresa. A large crowd at Okara Park watch Timaru, Greymouth, Waihi and Woodville compete for civic bragging rights in the sun.
Erua tells the story of an intriguing friendship between artist Toss Woollaston (Grant Tilly) and a young Māori boy Erua (Turei Reedy) who modelled for him each Wednesday evening in Greymouth, in the early 60s. Woollaston had seen the boy playing "like one dark bead shaken in a tray of pale ones". The image made him curious to find what Erua was like, and to try to draw "that". Tilly won a 1989 NZ Film and Television Award for his performance; he argued that it was "an awesome responsibility" to play someone who was still alive. Erua also won awards for Best Drama and Screenplay.
In November 2010, 29 miners died in the Pike River disaster. In 2014 Wellington’s Orpheus Choir invited singer Dave Dobbyn to compose a musical tribute to the victims. Dreams Lie Deeper followed Dobbyn to Greymouth to meet with mourning families, and visit the mine. This excerpt shows the premiere of Dobbyn's song ‘This Love’ in Wellington on 10 May 2014, to a standing ovation. The film screened on TV One on the fourth anniversary of the disaster. Sunday Star Times critic Grant Smithies called it “one hell of a documentary. Raw, touching and blessedly unsentimental.”
This short 1979 National Film Unit documentary heads up the steep bush-clad West Coast valleys from Rūnanga, to profile the men at work at five private coal mines. Director Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) showcases the remarkable DIY resourcefulness required by the small groups of miners. The rugged individuals work the seams, push bins along steep incline railways and dump the loads down vertiginously steep flumes. At the time this film was made waning prospects for the unique way of life were looking up, as high oil prices spurred demand for coal.
Hosts Olly Coddington, Gabrielle Paringatai and Candice Davis front this TVNZ youth series from the era of Bebo and Obama. The series flavours youth TV fare (music videos, sport, online competitions) with reo and tikanga. This final episode from the show’s first year is set around a roof party on top of Auckland’s TVNZ HQ. Hip hop dance crews, Shortland Street stars and DJs are mixed with clips of the year’s 'best of' moments: field reports (from robot te reo to toilet advice and office Olympics) and special guests (from rapper Savage to actor Te Kohe Tuhaka playing Scrabble).
Produced by NHNZ, this NZ Screen Award-nominated 2005 TVNZ series looks at Aotearoa’s diverse weather. This first episode (of three) explores "the main driving force behind all our weather" — the wind — from the science behind where it comes from, to its impact on people (from sport to the economy). Presenter Gus Roxburgh contends with Wellington’s infamous wind, and with Auckland’s tornadoes and cyclones. He looks at when weather is good (wind farms, windsurfing) and when weather goes bad (the Wahine disaster, Cyclone Bola, landing at Wellington Airport).
In the first of this two-part documentary about Kiwis and cars, actor Rima Te Wiata sets off on a road tour of New Zealand. Starting in the South Island, Te Wiata learns about the first bus tours to Aoraki, which were handled by the Mount Cook Motor Company. Then she travels to Westport via the infamous Hawks Crag, and hears from locals about the difficulties and dangers of transit before the introduction of cars. A trip back up the country takes Te Wiata to Northland, where the locals suggest they may have been better off when the primary mode of transport was by boat.
It was a Kiwi that invented the jet-boat, so it is probably unsurprising that at the time of this film’s production New Zealand teams had won Mexico's Rio Balsas Marathon three times. Directed by Derek Wright, the award-winning NFU doco showcases what was then the longest jet-boat race yet staged: a five-day 1000km race across NZ, with the locals putting their trophy on the line. The race hits the rapids and — despite the odd tree stump — speeds past scenery on six rivers (from the Whanganui to the Waimakariri), Lake Brunner, and through the surf to Sumner Beach.
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."
This 1985 TVNZ documentary follows the recruitment of three new pilots into the Red Checkers acrobatic flying squadron of the Royal NZ Air Force. The pilots train to fly formations, loops and low level passes. There are close calls, and interviews with pilots and their spouses. What does it take to be a Kiwi Top Gun? Squadron leader (and future NZ Defence Force chief) Bruce Ferguson: "he's got to have confidence in himself, his abilities and to be a wee bit of a showman." The documentary marked one of the earliest directing credits for Emmy Award-winner Mike Single.