Jean Batten - The Garbo of the Skies

Television, 1988 (Full Length)

In the 1930s Jean Batten broke solo distance flying records and achieved international fame. Directed by her biographer, Ian Mackersey, Garbo of the Skies chronicles Batten's life through archive footage, interviews, narration from her unpublished memoirs and reconstructions of her epic flights. The documentary also reveals a lonely private world: a domineering mother, romantic tragedy, a fall into obscurity, and death in a Majorcan hotel (a mystery finally solved during the film's making). Garbo of the Skies screened on TVNZ, the Discovery Channel and the BBC.

Collection

Pioneering Women

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection celebrates women and feminism in New Zealand — the first country in the world to give all women the vote. We shine the light on a line of female achievers: suffrage pioneers, educators, unionists, politicians, writers, musicians, mothers and feminist warriors — from Kate Sheppard to Sonja Davies to Shona Laing. In her backgrounder, TV veteran and journalism tutor Allison Webber writes how the collection helps us understand and honour our past, asks why feminism gets a bad rap, and considers the challenges faced by feminism in connecting past and present.

Amy Street

Web, 2016 (Full Length Episodes)

Amy Street is an award-winning series of eight short documentaries. Each tells the story of a resident in a Thames assisted living community for people with intellectual disabilities. Opening the series is Celeste, a superfan of Shortland Street who gets to meet one of her Street idols. Other interviewees include Moyzee, a keen singer who says "labels are on jars and I'm not a jar so you can't label me"; couple Topsy and Dave, who are excited about their upcoming wedding, and Jonathan, a runner who hopes to win a medal at the Special Olympics in Dunedin. 

Memories of Service 4 - Harold Beven

Web, 2017 (Full Length Episode)

Harold Beven reckons he’s the luckiest man to serve in the Second World War. Born in a village east of London, he saw plenty of action in the (UK) Royal Navy, but by his own admission, never got his feet wet. Joining up as soon as possible after the outbreak of war, Beven served in almost all the naval theatres. As a Chief Petty Officer, he was involved in the evacuations of Greece and Crete — and later the allied invasions of Sicily and Italy — as well as the D-Day invasion of France. At the age of 96, Beven remembers entire conversations as if it was yesterday.

The Years Back - 3, The Thirties (Episode Three)

Television, 1973 (Full Length Episode)

Bernard Kearns presents a survey of NZ life in the 30s in this episode of the National Film Unit series The Years Back (“people and events that shaped the New Zealand of today”). The documentary includes a wealth of footage taken from NFU stock: the aftermath of the 1931 Napier earthquake, the Depression (as Kearns bluntly states, “there was a lot of misery in the 30s”), and runner Jack Lovelock’s gold medal triumph at the Berlin Olympics. There’s also editorial flair as King George VI’s lavish coronation ceremony is juxtaposed with the A&P show back home.

Reaching for the Skies - An End to Isolation

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

Made for the 50th anniversary of Air New Zealand, Reaching for the Skies takes a journey through New Zealand’s aviation history — from claims that Richard Pearse flew before the Wright brothers and early attempts at Trans-Tasman travel, to the establishment of Tasman Empire Airways and the modern airliner. Vintage aircraft feature, with biplanes and single engine aircraft, as well as rare Solent flying boats. Interviewees talk about their desire to form a new private airline after the war, only to be denied, and the importance of having a national carrier in New Zealand.

Off the Ground - 3, The Modern Pioneers

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

The third part of this NFU series on aviation in New Zealand jets off post-World War II, where wartime aircraft and crew provided a base for the National Airways Corporation (later Air New Zealand). The romance of travelling via flying boat made way for mass global air travel; and NZ tourism and airports rapidly became more sophisticated. Presenter Peter Clements looks at how the NZ environment spurred innovation (ski planes, top-dressing, heli deer hunting), and traces the lineage of contemporary garage aircraft makers to DIY first flyers like Richard Pearse.

Jean

Television, 2016 (Trailer and Excerpts)

In the 1930s Kiwi-born pilot Jean Batten set off on a series of legendary solo flights. Jean is the tale of a charismatic, determined woman, the mother who stayed close, and the man curious to unravel the person behind the legend. At the 2017 NZ Television Awards, the ambitious telemovie made a clean sweep, including awards for Donna Malane and Paula Boock's script, director Robert Sarkies, lead actor Kate Elliott, and the design team. In the excerpt — which hints at the story's globetrotting sweep — Jean fights heat and storms while attempting to fly from England to Australia. 

Series

Off the Ground

Television, 1982

This was a three-part series mapping the history of aviation in New Zealand: from DIY pioneers (Richard Pearse, the Walsh bros), via the formation of the RNZAF and NAC, to contemporary aviators. Flying Kiwi heroes (Sir Francis Chichester, Jean Batten) are profiled, along with innovation stirred by the NZ environment: flying boats, ski-planes and top-dressers. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, with veteran Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) directing, the series was made by the National Film Unit for TV, which by the 80s had replaced cinemas as an NFU outlet.

Off the Ground - 2, Challenge and Crisis

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

The second part of this 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand hang glides to the 30s golden age where world famous flying feats (from the likes of Aussie Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and NZ aviatrix Jean Batten) inspired a surge in aero and gliding clubs and the beginning of commercial domestic flights and aerial mapping. War saw Kiwis flying for the RAF and modernised an ageing RNZAF, taking it from biplanes to jet aircraft. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.