A Sense of Involvement

Short Film, 1977 (Full Length)

This award-winning National Film Unit documentary looks at the craft movement in New Zealand, as this counterpoint to industrial mass production went mainstream. The sense of involvement in the title refers to the individual skills that potters, weavers, printmakers, furniture makers and sculptors bring to making their objects. Director David Sims avoids narration, instead using music from composer Tony Baker to score scenes of the makers at work, from the loom, furnace and kiln, to workshop and studio. As a flashback to the late 70s, facial hair, ceramics and wool abound.

Architect Athfield

Film, 1977 (Full Length)

Before he achieved worldwide fame as an actor, Sam Neill directed documentary films for the National Film Unit. This film examines the philosophy, early achievements and frustrations of one of New Zealand's most innovative architects, Ian Athfield. Athfield won an international competition in 1975 to design housing for 140,000 squatters in Manila, in the Philippines, yet struggled to gain recognition back home. This film culminates in Athfield's trip to the Philippines to pursue the project. Shooter John Toon later memorably shot feature film Rain.

Series

The Game of Our Lives

Television, 1996

This four-part series from 1996 presents the game of rugby as a mirror for New Zealand social history. Written by Finlay Macdonald, it sets out to explain how rugby became such an intrinsic part of New Zealand's identity. Each episode visits iconic paddocks (from schools to stadiums) and players (from amateurs Nepia, Meads, and Shelford, to professional star Lomu); and observers muse on the influence of the inflated pig's bladder on Kiwi culture, including historian Jock Phillips, writer Ian Cross and journalist TP Mclean.

The City And The Suburb (part two)

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This 1983 Hamish Keith-presented documentary is subtitled 'Housing New Zealand in the Twentieth Century'. Part two picks up from Michael Joseph Savage’s 1930s state housing scheme. Keith argues that as the emphasis shifted from renting to owning, middle class suburbia became the foundation of Kiwi postwar aspirations. He looks at changing demographics in the cities — as home owners fled on newly built motorways — and argues that the suburban ideal has become bland and out of reach, as New Zealand once again becomes a country of “mean streets and mansions”.

Collection

Kiwi Ingenuity

Curated by NZ On Screen team

'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.

Series

The Elegant Shed

Television, 1984

The Elegant Shed was a six part doco series looking at NZ architecture since 1945. The influential series (and accompanying book) redefined Kiwi’s relationship to their built environment, celebrating the homespun and DIY (bach and boatshed, tramping huts, suburbia, small town main streets) as inspirations for a distinctly local architecture. Architect David Mitchell plays tour guide (replete with bohemian goatee and polyester suit), interviews key players (The Group, Ian Athfield) and surveys buildings from bespoke cribs to modernist towers. 

The Elegant Shed - 'The Extroverts'

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

With dapper architect David Mitchell as tour guide, The Elegant Shed was an influential six-part series looking for the local in NZ architecture. Here Mitchell looks at ‘The Extroverts’: a group of architects who transformed Wellington in the 70s and 80s. Ian Athfield and Roger Walker are interviewed about their projects (Ath’s sprawling hillside house, Walker’s Park Mews flats). He also examines the influence of Austrian emigre Ernst Plischke (Massey House), glass verandas (Oaks Arcade), and exalts in John Scott’s iconic bi-cultural building, Futuna Chapel.

Interview

Sam Neill: On his early directing career and moving into acting...

Interview - Clare O'Leary. Camera and Editing - Leo Guerchmann

Sam Neill moved from directing at the National Film Unit, to becoming one of New Zealand's most internationally successful actors. His resume of 60+ features includes lead roles in a number of local movies, from a man alone in breakout feature Sleeping Dogs to an unusual reverend in Dean Spanley.

Flare - A Ski Trip

Short Film, 1977 (Full Length)

This short documentary about freestyle skiing was directed for the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department by Sam Neill (who would shortly achieve fame as an actor). This was one of several docos directed by Neill while at the National Film Unit; other subjects included the Red Mole theatre troupe and architect Ian Athfield. The skiers put on daring displays of their 'art' in locations including Mount Hutt, Queenstown and Tongariro National Park. 70s snow-styles (and beards) abound. The film was translated into French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish.

Dan Hennah

Designer

Art department veteran Dan Hennah worked on a range of screen projects before becoming an art director and set decorator on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Five times Oscar nominated, he won an Academy Award for his work on The Return of the King. Since then Hennah has graduated to production designing on a number of features, including taking on the job for Peter Jackson's three-parter of The Hobbit.