The second part of this 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand hang glides to the 30s golden age where world famous flying feats (from the likes of Aussie Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and NZ aviatrix Jean Batten) inspired a surge in aero and gliding clubs and the beginning of commercial domestic flights and aerial mapping. War saw Kiwis flying for the RAF and modernised an ageing RNZAF, taking it from biplanes to jet aircraft. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.
Forty-five years in the making, this documentary looks at the history of Kiwi adventure sport. Via spectacular — original and archive — footage, it follows the pioneers (AJ Hackett et al) from sheep farm-spawned maverick surf kids to pre-Lonely Planet OEs chasing the buzz; and the innovative toys and pursuits that resulted. From the Hamilton Jet to the bungee, No.8 fencing wire smarts are iterated. The exhilaration of adventure is underpinned by a poignant ecological message — that the places where the paradise chasers could express themselves are now in peril.
For this 4 May 2006 20/20 profile, reporter Hadyn Jones heads to rugby great Richie McCaw’s hometown of Kurow, on the cusp of his appointment as All Black captain. Jones quizzes the 25-year-old on his fighter pilot grandfather, girls, and his “second great love” — gliding. Childhood photos and interviews with his family frame spectacular shots of McCaw “rock-polishing”, in a glider above Omarama. Jones asks: “Is it daunting when you think we haven’t won a World Cup in 20 years?” By 2015 McCaw would be the only skipper to have twice held aloft the Webb Ellis Cup.
Off the Edge was director Michael Firth's ode to the exhilaration of adventuring on the spine of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Something of a snowy Endless Summer, the film follows an American and a Canadian as they ski, hang glide, climb and delve beneath glaciers, in the Aoraki-Mt Cook area. Thrilling footage amidst spectacular scenery was shot over two seasons, where extreme weather and geography meant few chances for second takes. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1977. The Los Angeles Times called it "beautiful and awesome".
Veteran producer and production designer Grahame McLean helped organise the shoots of a run of landmark Kiwi productions, from The Games Affair to Sleeping Dogs. Later he brought TV success Worzel Gummidge down under, and became the first — and will likely long remain one of the few — New Zealanders to direct two feature films back to back.
Director Michael Firth was an unheralded figure in the Kiwi film renaissance. His debut movie, ski film Off the Edge, was the first New Zealand feature to be Oscar-nominated. Noted US critic Andrew Sarris praised drama Sylvia, based on teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner, as one of 1985's best films. Firth's subjects ranged from incest to fishing; his TV series Adrenalize sold to 50 countries. He passed away on 9 October 2016.
Barrie Everard was a significant Kiwi player in the business of movies over four decades. After distributing films in a highly competitive market, he founded the Berkeley Cinema chain. Everard produced adventure movie The Leading Edge (1987) and executive produced Never Say Die. He was the first exhibitor/ distributor to sit on the board of the NZ Film Commission, and was chair from 2002 to 2006. He died on 14 November 2016.
Michael Haigh gave up teaching to become a professional actor. A founding member of Wellington’s Circa Theatre, his TV legacy is the gruff office worker Jim in Roger Hall’s Gliding On — one of NZ television’s great comic characters and a role that won him a Feltex Award. He played Jim for five years and appeared in a number of other TV series and films (almost inevitably playing a policeman). Michael Haigh died in 1993.
This 1968 Looking at New Zealand episode travels to NZ’s third-largest island: Stewart Island/Rakiura. The history of the people who've faced the “raging southerlies” ranges from Norwegian whalers to the 400-odd modern folk drawn there by a self-reliant way of life. Mod-cons (phone, TV) alleviate the isolation, and the post office, store, wharf and pub are hubs. The booming industry is crayfish and cod fishing (an old mariner wisely feeds an albatross); and the arrival of tourists to enjoy the native birds and wildness anticipates future prospects for the island.