This collection is a celebration of the eccentric, exuberant career of NZ screen industry frontrunner Tony Williams. As well as being at the helm of many iconic ads (Crunchie, Bugger, Spot, Dear John) Williams made inventive, award-winning indie TV documentaries, and shot or directed pioneering feature films, including Solo and cult horror Next of Kin.
In this special Easter episode of TVNZ’s Sunday morning mainstay, original Praise Be host Graeme Thomson introduces hymns from some of the country’s oldest churches. Throughout the country church choirs deliver praise, while Thomson offers intermittent quotes from the bible to remind viewers of the true meaning of Easter. The special includes a hymn performed inside Christchurch’s iconic cathedral, before it was destroyed in the 2011 quakes. Praise Be first debuted in 1986, and has been on air ever since, apart from two years off the air in the mid 2000s.
Bruce Graham, wife Lynn and son Mark are in the funeral business, serving the people in the Waikato town of Tūākau at their darkest times. This episode of First Hand takes place in the aftermath of local man Athel Parsons' death, from collecting his body to his funeral and cremation. Athel lived alone but was from a large family. He contributed to his town through his love of sports, in particular indoor bowls. As Bruce organises Athel's farewell we learn about both men's lives, and how the most common of events can affect a small community.
“I hear the roooolling thunder”. Sir Howard Morrison’s classic bilingual rendition of the popular hymn comes from an October 1981 Royal Variety Performance, in front of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Morrison's performance at Auckland's St James Theatre of 'Whakaaria Mai' marked a comeback for the veteran entertainer, who had been out of the spotlight working in Māori youth development. Released as a single a couple of months later, it topped the charts for four weeks, and led to the commissioning of a televised Howard Morrison Special in 1982.
TVNZ's long running religious and choral music programme visits Christchurch's Anglican cathedral. Before its devastation by earthquakes, it was the centre of the city and one of the most celebrated of its great Gothic buildings. It could also claim to be "the most visited, the most accessible and best known church in New Zealand". Host Graeme Thomson explores the cathedral, its chapels and bell tower and outlines its history. He interviews Dean John Bluck and introduces hymns and songs of praise sung by the cathedral's choir and an ecumenical congregation.
In this film, late choreographer Douglas Wright's work Gloria is captured on camera by Alun Bollinger, in a rare directorial effort from the legendary Kiwi cinematographer. Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria RV589, a hymn praising the birth of Christ, plays behind a yellow and black flurry of limbs and gestures. The journey from gymnastic leaps to rest, marks the cycle of life. The work was shot soon after Wright returned from his dance OE and formed the Douglas Wright Dance Company. The screening attracted attention from morals groups worried about nudity on television.
Since debuting in 1986, Praise Be has become a Sunday morning perennial. In this extended 1993 Christmas special, original Praise Be presenter Graeme Thomson travels far and wide in search of heavenly vocals: including big city cathedrals, schools, among singing sailors at Devonport Naval Base, and to a disused Canterbury flour mill, where the local farming community pack in for 'Away in a Manger'. A number of TV personalities (Judy Bailey, Phillip Leishman) also make appearances, to talk about Christmas and read from the bible.
Recorded in varied locations across New Zealand, Praise Be mixed choral contributions and biblical readings. Though its siblings Country Calendar and Fair Go are even older, Praise Be ranked among New Zealand’s longest-running television shows. The Sunday worship show played from 1986 to 2016, apart from two years off air in the mid 2000s. Veteran broadcaster Graeme Thomson presented the show for its first two decades, before he passed away in 2008; then the show was hosted by Chris Nichol, a Presbyterian minister and veteran of TVNZ’s Religious Programmes Unit.
This edition of Great War Stories series revisits “a candidate for the darkest day in New Zealand war history” — 12 October 1917. The Passchendaele disaster in Belgium is explored via a letter smuggled home from 23-year-old private Leonard Hart. The front was a quagmire of mud and blood where, in a catastrophic blunder, Kiwi soldiers were shelled by their own artillery fire before being caught in barbed wire, and slaughtered by enemy machine guns. Hart called it “the most appalling slaughter I’ve ever seen.” Presenter Hilary Barry also sings the opening hymn, 'Abide with Me'.
“A film developed from the imagination of New Zealand children” is how director Tony Williams describes this remarkable, sprawling mix of drama and documentary. It features a fictitious teacher (writer Michael Heath) working with a class of 11-year-olds from Petone to explore what freedom means to them. At times their notions might seem naive but the film remains firmly non-judgmental. The free-wheeling approach, most memorable in the Paekakariki beach fantasy scenes, makes for a “wonderfully idiosyncratic” (film historian Roger Horrocks) hymn to juvenile freedom.