Starting in the questioning times of the late 60s, many New Zealanders began leaving town to set up their own communities, in search of alternative ways to live. This then and now documentary travels to communes long gone and still active, and tracks down many of those involved. Tim Shadbolt describes a time when people questioned "everything fearlessly ... without reserve and without restraint". The back to the land approach brought both satisfaction and fatigue. Dirty Bloody Hippies played to full houses at NZ's Documentary Edge Festival.
Written by Fiona Samuel (Marching Girls, Bliss, Home Movie) and produced by Ginette McDonald for television’s Montana Sunday Theatre, Face Value is a trilogy of monologues delivered by three separate women. While each woman’s story and background are vastly different, they are all united by their shared quest to find happiness amidst personal trauma. In A Real Dog, Carol Smith’s performance is spot-on as Lynette, a conflicted new-age hippie who struggles to recreate harmony when a new flatmate (and her estranged boyfriend) moves in.
Colin Broadley was part of the Kiwi soundtrack during a decade of dramatic change. A DJ on NZ's first pirate radio station, he was also hunky star of Runaway, the first local movie in 12 years. In 1986 'whatever happened to' style series Then Again found him in the Coromandel, where he was tending bees and living back to the basics. Broadley talks exciting times on the Radio Hauraki boat, and inside a cell; the perils of kissing Bond girl Nadja Regin in the Opononi mud; a near-fatal crash; visits to China, and his belief that modern day economics and land use are unsustainable.
The magpie quardle oodled and the narrator uttered, "Welcome to Woolly Valley", in the intro to this children's TV classic. The low-tech puppet show with its rustic charm was familiar to a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s. It follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally and his long-suffering wife Beattie, who live with talking ewe Eunice. Also featured is hippie Tussock, voiced by Russell (Count Homogenized) Smith. Woolly Valley marked an early piece of screenwriting by children's writer Margaret Mahy. This compilation is the entire first series.
One of the earliest films made by Roger Donaldson (Sleeping Dogs), this curio chronicles the dawning of the Age of Aquarius in Aotearoa. The made for TV film features interviews with those who've swapped walk shorts for wigwams to "start again". There's rebellion against all things straight, and rejection of the city in favour of getting back to nature. Folk songs are the soundtrack to hippies, outdoor bathing, "group touching", the Blerta bus, and DIY dome housing. Counterpointing the counterculture are 1984-style scenes of masked marchers representing the silent majority.
The 1978 death of Kerry Hamill in Khmer Rouge prison S21 provided a tangible link for New Zealanders to a genocide that claimed two million Cambodian lives. Thirty years later, this acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Annie Goldson follows Hamill’s brother Rob — an Olympian and Trans-Atlantic rowing champion — as he attends the war crimes trial of Comrade Duch, one of the architects of the slaughter. Hamill is there to make a victim impact statement, but also to understand how his brother died, confront the man responsible, and discover if forgiveness is possible.
In the early 1970s expat broadcaster Michael Dean took Aotearoa’s pulse, as it loosened its necktie and moved from “ice-cream on mutton, swilled around in tea” conservatism, towards a more cosmopolitan outlook. Dean asks the intelligentsia (James K Baxter, Tim Shadbolt, Peter Cape, Shirley Smith, Bill Sutch, Ian Cross, Peter Beaven, Pat Hanly, Syd Jackson, Hana Te Hemara) for their take. The questions range from “what does the family in Tawa sit down to eat these days?” to the Māori renaissance. Dean had made his name in the 60s, as a high profile broadcaster with the BBC.
Filmmaker Tom Reilly went to Graham Gordon’s West Auckland wrecker’s yard to buy car parts. He soon found himself chronicling Gordon’s battle with the former Waitakere Council trying to clear his 100 acre property (nicknamed Gordonia) of car wrecks, and a small army of colourful but largely destitute men camping there. The result was a documentary capturing the gulf between Gordon’s cheerful but dogged non-conformity and a council determined to enforce its by-laws at all costs. The soundtrack is by guitar legend and occasional resident Billy TK Senior.
In this one-off documentary Te Radar takes his roving reporter skills to Takaka, and immerses himself in the groovy world of The Gathering. The New Year's dance music festival ran from 1996 to 2002. Radar proves the master of the quote, whether chatting to 'Lords of the Ping', electronic act Pitch Black or avoiding immolation from fire poi enthusiasts ("who doesn't love a fire poi", he says grimly). Watch out for Black Seed Bret McKenzie, laidback DJ star John Digweed and the earnest 'Jesus Food' crew, whose free dosh proves a bit too popular for rival food stalls.
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.