Now known as the Commonwealth Games, the 1950 British Empire Games were held in Auckland, at Eden Park, Auckland Town Hall, Newmarket Olympic Pool and Western Springs, with rowing at Lake Karapiro. This 75 minute NFU film starts with the arrival of the teams on silver-hulled flying boats, DC-3s and cruise ships. It features the opening at Eden Park along with athletics, boxing, swimming, rowing, fencing, the marathon and more. Future Olympic champ Yvette Williams wins the ‘broad jump’ (clip four). New Zealand finished third on the medal table, out of 11 nations.
This newsreel's subjects include: a camp being built by Lake Karapiro for rowers in the Empire Games, a garden party at St Mary's Home for Children, and a community play area in Naenae (where the sport of "paddle tennis" is featured). Students of Wellington's Architectural Centre build a pine and glass-walled modernist house in Karori, that has bunks and a utility room, "where children can play and Mother can sew". Perhaps most exciting is the demolition by army engineers of Murphy's Brickyard chimney in Berhampore, with children swarming over the fresh rubble.
This NFU documentary showcases the hydroelectric power-generating might of the Waikato River. The ‘man harnesses nature’ narrative — shown via concrete, steel and earthmoving for dam building — highlights the path of the power: to drive farms, factories and Wellington’s electric trains. Director Cecil Holmes later wrote that post-war NZ was "a desperately poor country"; the film aimed to highlight Government efforts to overcome power shortages. After the 'satchel snatch' smear campaign of 1948, Holmes left for a highly regarded screen career in Australia.
People of the Waikato makes frequent pitstops along the 425 km path of NZ's longest river. Made in an era of post-war electricity shortages, the film balances requisite beautiful scenery with excursions into the Waikato's extensive hydroelectric system: including then-unfinished fourth dam Whakamaru, whose development was slowed by the discovery of clay in the foundation rock. Alongside brief glimpses of those who live and work on the river, there is footage of stunt-filled canoe races, Turangawaewae Marae, and a veteran boatman tugging coal.
"So the Queen comes to New Zealand. 12,000 miles from the motherland she is not among strangers. She has come to her New Zealand home." When the Queen and Prince Philip began the first tour of NZ by a reigning monarch (soon after her coronation), a National Film Unit crew followed the journey, before condensing 40 days and 46 stops into a mere 25 minutes. Along the way the newly crowned Queen wears her coronation gown to open Parliament, and witnesses geysers, long-jumpers, Māori canoes, plus masses of enthused Dunedinites refusing to keep behind the barrier.
This documentary follows the efforts of the New Zealand rowing eight to win gold at 1984’s Los Angeles Olympics. The eight, coached by the legendary Harry Mahon, had won the past two world champs and were expected to repeat the triumph of the 1972 Kiwi eight at Munich. Amongst training at home, the infamous six minutes of pain — the “erg test” — is featured; one of the most demanding trials in sport. The action then shifts to LA for the Olympic finals. The film offers a gripping insight into the extreme lengths the amateur athletes go to in their quest for gold.
New Zealand’s first left-wing documentary filmmaker, Cecil Holmes achieved notoriety in the late 1940s through the highly publicised exposure of his communist activity as a Public Service Association (PSA) delegate in the National Film Unit. He went on to become a significant film director in Australia.Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-023573; F (detail)