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Cuckoo Land - The Neighbour (Episode Two)

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Petunia and her daughters Patch and Polly have moved into their decidedly unconventional dream house in the second episode of this surreal children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy and directed by Yvonne McKay. Their idyllic new life of music making is soon shattered by their home handyman neighbour from hell Branchy (Grant Tilly). But he has problems of his own with the unwelcome arrival of his three long lost, grasping and perpetually hungry sons. Special guest Jon Gadsby contributes an energetic performance as pie magnate Chicken Licken.

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Cuckoo Land - The House (First Episode)

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Musician Petunia (Jennifer Ludlam) and daughters Polly and Patch are tiring of their lives as land yachting "gypsies of the motorway" in the first episode of this hyperactive children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy. Their salvation could be a magic house owned by Crocodile Crosby — a used car dealer with ambitions to be a pirate — but a devious land agent (Michael Wilson) and a dastardly wealthy couple stand in the way. All powerful narrator Paul Holmes orchestrates the action which features extensive use of music and period video special effects.

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Series

Land of Birds

Television, 1969–1981

Land of Birds was a series of 10 films looking at Aotearoa’s manu or native birds. Produced by the National Film Unit, the series was written, directed and largely photographed by Grant Foster. It was New Zealand’s first natural history film series, showing on NZ TV and internationally. The first instalment — Bird of a Single Flight (presented by Dr Robert Falla, on the kōtuku colony at Ōkārito) — won a 1973 Feltex Award for Best Natural History Programme. Other topics included Royal Albatross (toroa), and The Honeyeaters (tui, bellbird/korimako, stichbird/hihi).

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The Unspoilt Land

Short Film, 1972 (Full Length)

This 1972 National Film Unit production promotes New Zealand’s national parks, from the oldest — Tongariro (established in 1887) — to Mt Aspiring (1964). Besides slatherings of scenic splendour, the film shows rangers clearing tracks, 70s après ski activity on Ruapehu, and school children at Rotoiti Youth Lodge: skylarking, river crossing, and cornflake eating en masse. When this film was made there were 10 National Parks (there are now 14). “In all their variety they’re the heritage of everyone who’s heard the call and felt the freedom of the unspoilt land.”

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Te Whānau o Aotearoa - Caretakers of the Land

Film, 2003 (Full Length)

Filmed in 2002, this documentary observes a group of people living on the streets of Wellington. After being moved on from Cuba Mall, the group makes their home by the Cenotaph (near Parliament) and sets up a "village of peace". Led by the dreadlocked 'Brother' they attempt to gain an audience with the government; their self-proclaimed marae provokes police, public, politicians and media. Reviewer Graeme Tuckett called the film a "landmark in New Zealand documentary making". Brother (aka Ben Hana) later gained a local profile as Courtenay Place's 'Blanket Man'.

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Land of a Thousand Lovers

Television, 1977 (Full Length)

In 1885 the NZ Government used legislation to take ownership of sections of Bastion Point (Takaparawhau) for defence purposes. This ancestral Māori land belonging to Ngāti Whātua was never returned, and in 1976 Crown announced plans to sell off land for housing. Joe Hawke led a group of peaceful protesters which occupied the land for 507 days, until they were forcibly removed by 700+ police and soldiers. This documentary, which screened as part of the Perspective current affairs series, examines some of the issues behind the protest that polarised a nation.

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Te Matakite o Aotearoa - The Māori Land March

Television, 1975 (Full Length)

“When old and young come together to do this, it shows the strength of their convictions.” This film is a detailed chronicle of a key moment in the Māori renaissance: the 1975 land march led by then 79-year-old Whina Cooper. A coalition of Māori groups set out from the far north for Wellington, opposed to further loss of their land. This early Geoff Steven documentary includes interviews with many on the march, including Eva Rickard, Tama Poata and Whina Cooper. There is stirring evidence of Cooper’s oratory skills. Steven writes about making the film in the backgrounder.

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Series

Cuckoo Land

Television, 1985

Heavily influenced by the mid-80s MTV-led music video boom, this madcap six part kids fantasy series focuses on an aspiring songwriter and her daughters who renounce life on a land yacht to settle in a house with a mind of its own. Based on scripts by acclaimed author Margaret Mahy (in her first collaboration with director Yvonne Mackay), it utilises then cutting edge video special effects (requiring locked off shots and no camera movement). The soundtrack is by composer Jenny McLeod while Paul Holmes' narrator is omnipotent and petulant in equal parts.

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Death of the Land

Television, 1978 (Full Length)

This courtroom drama sets in conflict opinions about the proposed sale of a block of Māori ancestral land. The arguments are intercut with footage of the 1975 land march, and Jim Moriarty comments on proceedings as a tangata whenua conscience. The drama shows its stage origins (it was adapted by Rowley Habib from his 1976 play) but it is passionate and articulate, and is notable as the first TV drama to be written by a Māori scriptwriter. The grievances aired echoed contemporary events, particularly the Eva Rickard-led occupation of the Raglan Golf Course.

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Our People Our Century - A Piece of Land

Television, 2000 (Excerpts)

This Philip Temple-scripted episode of Our People, Our Century covers stories of New Zealanders and their turangawaewae: a piece of land they call their own. The importance of the land to farming families, and to the economy of NZ is explored through the eyes of three families. Elworthy Station in South Canterbury is being farmed by a 5th generation Elworthy. Two elderly ladies reminisce on their childhood in remote Mangapurua, near Raetihi in the central North Island. And a Māori family in Taranaki reflects on their decision to sell the family farm.