'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.
NZ On Screen's Chinese in New Zealand Collection contains many pearls — from a run of impressive documentaries, to comedies and dramas that skewer stereotypes and explore relationships across cultures. Identity, family, colliding values and 19th century goldminers all make regular appearances, but they're only part of a far bigger story. Plus check out this backgrounder by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.
Around 31 March 1903, eccentric farmer Richard Pearse climbed into a self-built monoplane and flew for about 140 metres, before crashing into a Waitohi gorse bush. The amount of control he maintained and exact date (before the Wright brothers?) has been oft-debated. This award-winning TV film (an early script for Hunter's Gold's Roger Simpson) dramatises the life of the reclusive young inventor and his flying machine, from his youth up until the flight itself. Actor Martyn Sanderson captures 'Mad Dick's' obsession in a Feltex-winning performance.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
Masterminded by director and fx whizz Derek Pearson, Event 16 is a brain-teaser spanning three eras. After neglecting his girlfriend (Jocelyn Christian) while struggling to perfect time travel, inventor Matt (Peter Rutherford) inadvertently puts her in danger when a colonial-era killer arrives in modern-day Wellington. Ambitiously plotted, with a plethora of double identities, Event 16 demonstrates how computers have opened new imaginative vistas for the low budget filmmaker — notably in the film's stylish vision of Victorian Wellington.
In the debut episode of the award-winning young inventors' series, Auckland schoolboy Adam Gaston has a design for rocket-powered ice skates — and the resident Goober experts and guests (including Aquada developer Alan Gibbs and Olympic speed skater Mark Jackson) could be the ones to help him achieve his need for speed. Challenged to create skates that will outsprint Jackson, Adam and 'Build Buddy' Sam Britten discover that rockets may be a step too far. Jet propulsion could be the solution — but will anyone be brave enough to test the results?
Celebrating the “transformative power of dance”, Dancing in the Dark centres on Peter Vosper, an inventor who has designed his own custom light suit as an outlet for his creativity. It also makes the perfect addition to No Lights No Lycra, an event where participants spend an hour dancing to upbeat music in the dark. While most dancers can’t be seen (as is the appeal of the event — dance like no one’s watching), Peter’s glowing suit takes centre stage and makes for quite the spectacle. The film is part of the Loading Docs series of shorts, made for exhibition online.
Some men joke about wanting a 'man cave'. Te Puke contractor Ron Hintz grabbed a shovel and dug one out by hand. This episode of the legendary TV series sees reporter/director Tony Benny experiencing Hintz's sometimes thrilling, sometimes whimsical outdoor home projects, including a flying fox, swing bridges and a cable car running down to the Mangorewa river. Hintz is a self-taught designer and inventor, a multi-skilled 'Renaissance man' ably supported by his partner Colleen, who can often be found behind the wheel of a tractor or bulldozer.
Auckland school boy, and master of "the fine art of doing nothing", Josh Murphy realises a couch potato's dream in this episode of the award-winning young inventors' series. A self professed "lazy boy", Josh has dreams of a motorised chair equipped with the necessities of life — Playstation, DVD player and fridge. The show's challenge to Josh is to build his chair and spend a school day in it (including classes, rugby practice and school production); but did the resident experts really try out a jet powered chair? Or was it all a dream for slothful Josh?
This edition of the NFU's long-running magazine film series boards the Wellington to Auckland 'experimental express', to test its 11 and a half hour trip claims. Then it's south for the opening of Christchurch Airport's new modernist terminals, designed by architect Paul Pascoe. At Waitangi, ships and a submarine from the New Zealand, Australian and British navies train, and Waitangi Day is commemorated. A reel highlight is Australian Formula One champion Jack Brabham meeting jet boat inventor Bill Hamilton, and trying out a 'Hamilton turn' on the Waimakariri River.