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The Years Back - 6, The Italian Campaign (Episode Six)

Television, 1973 (Full Length Episode)

In this The Years Back episode Bernard Kearns charts New Zealand's 6th Brigade and Maori Battalion as they fight their way through Italy between 1943 and 1945. Reaching Monte Cassino in 1944, the force suffered 1600 casualties in 12 weeks of bitter fighting. Using NFU pictures, the documentary traces the advance north after Cassino falls, and includes the bloodless capture of Padua and the setting up of the New Zealand Forces Club in the best hotel in Venice. The documentary ends with Kiwi forces facing down Tito's Yugoslav partisans in Trieste.

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Artist

Ted Brown and The Italians

Ted Brown found cult cred in the late 80s with The Tunnellers, a band he started at age 17. The band won Most Promising Group at the 1988 NZ Music Awards, and in 1993 Brown scored a Tui for Most Promising Male Vocalist. Several singles for Trevor Reekie's Pagan label followed; Reekie later described Brown as a “monster singer”. The songs included La De Da's cover 'How is the Air Up there', under the moniker Ted Brown and the Italians. These days Brown is based in Los Angeles — where his music tends towards more of a country sound. Brown sometimes collaborates with fellow Kiwi-born émigré Greg Johnson.

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How Is the Air Up There?

Ted Brown and The Italians, Music Video, 1994

This cover by Ted Brown and the Italians of the 1966 hit for the La De Da's focuses on the rock in the psychedelic rock original. Directed by Chris Jackson (Impressions), the no-frills video is all moody blues and reds, cut together with Brown and the band seen in naturalistic colour through a fisheye lens. Brown had won a Tui NZ Music Award for Most Promising Male Vocalist the previous year. Trivia: the Artie Kornfield and Steve Duboff-penned song was also covered by The Bangles. In 1995 Darryl 'DLT' Thomson remixed Brown’s version as the theme music for TV3 music show Frenzy.

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Our Day to Remember

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

This documentary explores resurgent interest in Anzac Day and examines the Kiwi desire to “remember them” (those who served in war) — ranging from patriotism to protest to burgeoning dawn services. The doco is framed around the return of the Unknown Warrior to a Wellington tomb in 2004; and a trip to Trieste, Italy, for Gordon and Luciana Johnston and their 24-year-old granddaughter Kushla. Gordon was a World War II gunner and Luciana an Italian nurse. Kushla learns of their war experience, and the early Cold War stand-off in Trieste following Nazi surrender.

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An Immigrant Nation - The Unbroken Thread

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

The Wellington seaside suburb of Island Bay is sometimes called Little Italy, thanks to the many Italians who have moved there. This episode of Immigrant Nation is based on interviews with Italian migrants to the suburb — from the woman who remembers the time during World War II when locals stopped talking to her, to the young man feeling "a magnetic pull" back to Italy. Although Italian fishing boats are now rarely seen in Island Bay, old traditions live on; and one woman talks about the responsibility of carrying on Italian traditions and culture into the future. 

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Crossing Rachmaninoff

Film, 2015 (Trailer)

This documentary follows Auckland-based, Italian-born pianist Flavio Villani as he prepares to play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 2 in Italy — his debut performance as a soloist with an orchestra. Director Rebecca Tansley, who funded much of the documentary herself, tails Villani from four months before the recital that will challenge the prodigal son to affirm his career choice and sexuality, in front of his Italian ex-military father. When it debuted at the 2015 Auckland Film Festival, Crossing Rachmaninoff won a standing ovation.   

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New Country - New People

Short Film, 1978 (Full Length)

This 1978 National Film Unit documentary provides a potted history of settler groups that came to New Zealand from Europe. Archive material and narration covers the colonials. Then visits are paid to the German-descended Eggers, tobacco growers from Moutere, and newly arrived French bakers and Dutch dairy farmers. Aptly for a film directed by actor and future winemaker Sam Neill, the film drops in on an Italian play and the Babich family of Dalmatian winemakers. Neill worked at the NFU in his 20s, around the time of his breakout acting role in Sleeping Dogs (1977). 

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Monte Cassino 60 Years On

Television, 2004 (Full Length)

In early 1944 the Italian town of Cassino was the site of a devastating World War II battle. Kiwi soldiers were part of the Allied forces attacking a German-held stronghold. New Zealand General Bernard Freyberg made the decision to bomb the town, including an iconic 1,400 year-old hilltop monastery. Both sides suffered heavy losses as the Nazis utilised the ruins to their advantage. This documentary follows Kiwi veterans CJ 'Brick' Lorimer and Stewart Black (aka Tai Paraki) as they return to confront the brutality and horror of war, as part of events marking the battle's 60th anniversary.

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Memories of Service 4 - Steve Danes

Web, 2017 (Full Length Episode)

“You forget about the rough times” says old soldier Steve Danes. Instead, the veteran of the Italian Campaign during World War ll focuses on the funny side. There are plenty of tales of the laughter and hijinks to be had when resting behind the lines, or on leave. Conscripted at age 18 and sent to Europe just short of his 21st birthday, Danes spent most of his war in Italy and there wasn’t much of the country he didn’t see. Along the way he encountered fanatical young Nazis, and older German soldiers who were sick of war and wanted it to end.

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Memories of Service 1 - John Wills

Web, 2015 (Full Length)

John Wills joined the New Zealand Army as soon as he could when war broke out in 1939. He ended up serving in North Africa and Italy until war’s end in 1945. Now 96, Wills looks back at his time as a driver for an artillery battery. Taken prisoner and held by the Italians in Libya, he was liberated by Indian troops in time to see action at the battle of El Alamein. He was also present, behind the lines, at the brutal Battle of Cassino, north of Naples. Tales of fighting, hardship and bravery are balanced with humour.