Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
This collection celebrates New Zealand's rich history in poetry, with documentaries on some of the country's finest poets — including Allen Curnow, Denis Glover, Sam Hunt, James K Baxter, Cilla McQueen and Hone Tuwhare. Tuwhare turns up in multiple titles, from 1975 interview Review - Hone Tuwhare to Gaylene Preston's 2005 documentary. Meanwhile Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick hit the road in 1980’s Artists Prepare, then 15 years later in The Roaring 40's Tour — when the ache of descending middle age is upon them.
In this Kaleidoscope report, Lorna Hope profiles poet, novelist and critic CK Stead as he resigns from his position as a Professor of English at Auckland University to write full time. Stead is filmed teaching, writing (at his Karekare bach), at home in Parnell, and at Frank Sargeson’s Takapuna house. He discusses his academic career, family life, walking for inspiration, and how he began writing as a teen. He also mentions his novel Smith’s Dream (adapted into 1977 feature film Sleeping Dogs), and how its themes are echoed in the 1981 Springbok Tour protests, where Stead was arrested.
In the early 1970s expat broadcaster Michael Dean took Aotearoa’s pulse, as it loosened its necktie and moved from “ice-cream on mutton, swilled around in tea” conservatism, towards a more cosmopolitan outlook. Dean asks the intelligentsia (James K Baxter, Tim Shadbolt, Peter Cape, Shirley Smith, Bill Sutch, Ian Cross, Peter Beaven, Pat Hanly, Syd Jackson, Hana Te Hemara) for their take. The questions range from “what does the family in Tawa sit down to eat these days?” to the Māori renaissance. Dean had made his name in the 60s, as a high profile broadcaster with the BBC.
Readings from the poems of James K Baxter trace the poet's life through its various New Zealand locations, and provide a biographical voice in this film by Bruce Morrison (co-written with Dr Paul Millar). Baxter's family and friends discuss the man and his work, and the readings and beautifully shot landscapes fill in the gaps. The film won Best Documentary at the 1998 Film and TV Awards. The opening montage, describing "the chugging noise of masturbation from the bedrooms of the bourgeois" of Auckland, is seminal Baxter.
The Whanganui River settlement of Jerusalem had a moment in the national spotlight when poet James K Baxter lived there in the early 70s — but it is home to a long established Māori community and the Catholic order of the Sisters of Compassion (since 1892). To make this documentary, Miriam Smith and Christopher Pryor spent a year in Jerusalem, following the lives and interactions of the nuns and the Ngāti Hau. North & South called their observations of a world of co-existing contrasts — Māori and Pākehā, young and old, secular and religious — “a cinematic treat”.
John O'Shea was godfather to generations of Kiwi filmmakers; he was an inspirational force committed to bringing new perspectives to the screen. As Ngati actor Wi Kuki Kaa put it, "had he been a Māori, he would have been a kaumatua years ago". This documentary backgrounds O'Shea and his pioneering indie production company Pacific Films, ranging from his efforts to put Māori on screen, to banned 60s ads. The cast provides proof positive of O'Shea's influence — amongst the ex-Pacific staff interviewed are the late Barry Barclay, Tony Williams and Gaylene Preston.
This Review episode from 1973 offers an interview with Hone Tuwhare — then 51 years old — at the Māori Writers' and Artists' Conference at Tukaki Marae, in the town of Te Kaha. One of New Zealand’s best-loved and lauded poets, Tuwhare speaks of various influences, including sex, religion, trade unionism and communism. Poet Rowley Habib sits alongside Hone in the interview, and occasionally contributes to the conversation. This documentary also features a poetry reading from Dunedin's Globe Theatre.
This consolidating episode of the archive-based New Zealand history series finds World War II at an end, the return of Kiwi servicemen and the country in an optimistic mood. That's sealed by the 1950 British Empire Games where New Zealand is third on the medal table. But rising prices and low incomes lead to more militant unionism, culminating in the fractious waterfront workers dispute of 1951. At the same time there's a new flowering of the arts. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is established and a new generation of writers and artists take centre stage.
Starting in the questioning times of the late 60s, many New Zealanders began leaving town to set up their own communities, in search of alternative ways to live. This then and now documentary travels to communes long gone and still active, and tracks down many of those involved. Tim Shadbolt describes a time when people questioned "everything fearlessly ... without reserve and without restraint". The back to the land approach brought both satisfaction and fatigue. Dirty Bloody Hippies played to full houses at NZ's Documentary Edge Festival.