On a Tuesday evening in April 1968, the ferry Wahine set out from Lyttelton for Wellington. Around 6am the next morning, cyclone-fuelled winds surged in strength as it began to enter Wellington Harbour. At 1.30pm, with the ferry listing heavily to starboard, the call was finally made for 734 passengers and crew to abandon ship. The news coverage and documentaries in this collection explore the Wahine disaster from many angles. Meanwhile Keith Aberdein — one of the TV reporters who was there — explores his memories and regrets over that fateful day on 10 April 1968.
Wayne Mason — multi-instrumentalist and composer of The Fourmyula classic 'Nature' — talks about songwriting and his musical evolution in this episode, from a series made for high school students. He demonstrates his piano playing (on an energetic boogie-woogie work out) and a Scandalli accordion on 'High and Dry' (which he wrote in the Warratahs). He discusses the origins of 'Nature', and his songwriting technique (which always begins on a guitar); and muses on his high school band The Fourmyula which took him to Abbey Road, where he met The Beatles.
Central Otago’s broad, dry landscape is dominated by an extreme climate; it is scarred by wind, ice and industry. Deep mining shafts and long rusted sluicing guns pepper this second stage of Peter Hayden’s traverse across latitude 45 south. He visits the quartz covered Mt Buster, NZ’s highest diggings, where unseasonal blizzards often claimed miners’ lives. The layout of Naseby’s graveyard yields information on the hierarchy of the goldfields. The flora includes mountain totara, carnivorous sundews and a heather variety that grows horizontally. Hayden won a GOFTA award for his script.
Marcus Lush goes "right up the guts" of the North Island from Wairarapa to Gisborne, in this episode of his award-winning romance with New Zealand's railways. He meets railcar restorers and recounts the murders by rail porter Rowland Edwards in 1884. Particular praise is reserved for the "spectacular and beautiful" Napier to Gisborne line (now mothballed) with its viaducts at Mohaka and Kopuawhara. The latter is on the site of a flash flood that killed 21 workers in 1938; it inspires an idiosyncratic Lush demonstration of Aotearoa's then 10 worst disasters.
In 1951, New Zealand temporarily became a police state. Civil liberties were curtailed, freedom of speech denied, and people could be imprisoned for providing food to those involved. This award-winning documentary tells the story of the 1951 lockout of waterside workers, and what followed: an extended nationwide strike, confrontation and censorship. There are interviews with many involved, from workers to journalists and police. At the 2002 NZ Television Awards, 1951 won awards for Best Documentary and Documentary Director (John Bates). Costa Botes backgrounds 1951 here.
The Mighty Civic offered a delirious and colourful celebration of Auckland's grandest old movie palace, made at a time when the building's future was under threat. The film uses a mixture of stylised sequences, archive footage, personal memories and poetic narration to evoke the spirit of the theatre in its heyday. Director Peter Wells' film galvanised public support, and ultimately the building was saved and refurbished, to remain the crown jewel of Queen Street's cinema district. This clip features the first 10 minutes of the hour long film. Costa Botes writes about the film here.
Peter Montgomery’s colourful and vibrant commentaries made him “the voice of New Zealand yachting”. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Montgomery played a major part in the sport’s move to mass popularity and had a central role in radio and TV coverage of Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup campaigns. On dry land, he has covered many other sports, and made the Eden Park side-line his own over two decades of rugby commentaries.
Tandi Wright was nominated for a best supporting actress award for her role in 2006 true-life drama Out of the Blue. Her extensive television resume includes long-running roles in Shortland Street, Being Eve, plus comedy Willy Nilly and hit series Nothing Trivial.
Starting with the National Film Unit in 1943, Bob Allen’s career as a motion picture sound recordist covered six decades. Based in the UK from 1953, he worked with well-known directors including Fred Zinnemann (Allen's work on The Day of the Jackal was BAFTA-nominated). He returned to his homeland to share his knowledge and experience as New Zealand feature filmmaking blossomed; and later to retire.
One of the funniest people on either side of the Tasman, John Clarke’s brand of droll wit (always delivered with a wickedly understated authenticity) defined the high-water mark of Kiwi and Australian comedy for 30 years. Spawned in the early 70s, his gumboot-clad character Fred Dagg marked a defining moment in the development of New Zealand comedy. Clarke passed away on 9 April 2017.