This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
This collection showcases Aotearoa Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender screen production. The journey to Shortland Street civil unions, rainbows in Parliament and the Big Gay Out is one of pride, but also one of secrets, shame and discrimination. As Peter Wells writes in this introduction, the titles are testament to a — joyful, defiant — struggle to "fight to exist".
Biographer Michael King takes us through the life of pioneering writer Frank Sargeson: from puritanical parents to self-discovery in London, through to decades encouraging an emerging tide of New Zealand writers. The documentary’s most priceless moments are the tales told when four of those writers return to Sargeson’s fabled fibrolite bach, in Takapuna. Kevin Ireland calls it an “oasis, this marvellous place where books ruled supreme”. Sargeson’s purposefuly minimalistic writing style, the doco argues, helped NZ literature find its own voice.
Peter Wells and Stewart Main’s acclaimed drama screened in primetime and was ground-breaking in featuring AIDS. Wells' script is based on the death of one of his friends — one of the first New Zealanders to die from the disease — but the living are the focus, as Wells creates an intimate “strange and foreign land” occupied by those close to someone who is dying. Andy’s friends confront both their own mortality and the deadly new disease stalking their community, while his conservative family grapples with never having come to terms with his sexuality. The excerpt features the opening 10 minutes.
In this feisty late 1976 The Friday Conference interview, host Gordon Dryden holds Prime Minister Muldoon to account over his 1975 election pledges. Dryden challenges Muldoon’s touting of freedom (amidst price freezes, wage controls and an All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa), and the PM's description of himself as a liberal (with heated talk about insults traded during the Colin Moyle affair). Dryden evokes the spectre of the McCarthy era, and a pugnacious Muldoon invokes “the ordinary bloke”. Muldoon later refused to be interviewed by Dryden again for the show.
The birth of television in the 1960s meant that suddenly protests and civil unrest could be broadcast directly into Kiwi homes. This episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television looks at many of those events — involving everything from the Vietnam War and the Springbok tour, to Bastion Point and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. It also examines how being televised altered their impact. Interviews with both protestors and reporters provide a unique insight into what it was like to be living through extraordinary periods of New Zealand history.
This documentary about Māori writer Witi Ihimaera features him in conversation with filmmaker Merata Mita. Ihimaera traverses his life and writing career, emphasising the importance of family (particularly his mother and grandmother) and his overriding Māori identity. Aileen O'Sullivan's film features a star-studded assemblage of local literature — Keri Hulme, Albert Wendt, publisher Geoff Walker — and a dramatised excerpt from his novel Bulibasha ( featuring Rena Owen, Michael Hurst and Rawiri Paratene), shot roughly two decades before 2016 movie adaptation Mahana.
Viewable in full, comedy/drama Hopeless is a portrait of Wellington 20-somethings attempting to get along with crushes, exes, and never weres. Well-meaning Ben (Phil Pinner) finds himself becoming relationship therapist to two friends, despite possessing a dangerously unstoppable mouth. Hamstrung by an advertising campaign highlighting Pinner sitting on a toilet, Hopeless won warm reviews. It also offered impressive movie debuts for Mia Blake (No. 2), Scott Wills (Stickmen) and a hilariously unhinged Adam Gardiner (Agent Anna). Spin-off TV series Lovebites followed.
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
In this interview publicising 1996 comedy The Birdcage, Robin Williams turns his humour settings to a surprisingly low level. Quizzed on matters political by Holmes reporter Ewart Barnsley, Williams argues that politically correct people can display the “same kind of repressive tendencies” as others, and admits that the portrait of homosexual parents in the Mike Nichols-directed comedy could be offensive to both gays and straights. But, he adds, the majority of viewers "go and laugh their ass off and find some common ground and humanity in it”.