NZ On Screen's Pacific Collection celebrates many things — many islands, many cultures, and the many Pasifika creatives who have enriched Aotearoa, by bringing their stories to the screen. The collection is curated by Stephen Stehlin, whose involvement in flagship Pacific magazine show Tagata Pasifika goes back to its very first season. In his backgrounder, Stehlin touches on sovereignty, diversity, Polyfest and bro'Town — and the relationship between Pacific peoples and Māori in Aotearoa.
This 1951 National Film Unit production looks at the Cook Islands, and marks the 50th anniversary of the islands’ annexation in 1901. Unusually long (half an hour) for an NFU film, it shows history ("Vikings of the Pacific" through Captain Cook to New Zealand administration) and island life: spear-fishing, catamaran sailing, breadfruit gathering, weaving, dancing and singing. The islands are depicted as paradise guided by NZ paternalism, with the Islanders grateful recipients of modern communication, technology, health services, education, and... tinned meat.
In this one-off documentary Te Radar takes his roving reporter skills to Takaka, and immerses himself in the groovy world of The Gathering. The New Year's dance music festival ran from 1996 to 2002. Radar proves the master of the quote, whether chatting to 'Lords of the Ping', electronic act Pitch Black or avoiding immolation from fire poi enthusiasts ("who doesn't love a fire poi", he says grimly). Watch out for Black Seed Bret McKenzie, laidback DJ star John Digweed and the earnest 'Jesus Food' crew, whose free dosh proves a bit too popular for rival food stalls.
New Zealand Mirror was a National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series aimed at showcasing Aotearoa to the British market. A Whangarei clock collector is a quirky choice to open this edition of Kiwi reflections. His display includes a clock that goes backwards. The ensuing segments are more in keeping with Māoriland and Shaky Isles postcard expectations. The annual Ngāruawāhia waka regatta includes novelty canoe hurdle races. There are also dramatic shots of 6000 foot high “cauliflower clouds” from Ruapehu’s 1945 eruption, and of the crater lake turned to seething lava.
This 1993 documentary surveys the world’s southernmost volcano, Mount Erebus. Cameras travel to never before filmed depths, 400 metres below the sea ice. They also go 3500 metres above sea level into the erupting crater. The film charts what is able to survive in the otherworldly environment, from seals to moss. Solid Water was the third part of an acclaimed Wild South trilogy on Antarctica, which helped establish a relationship between Discovery Channel and TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ). It was awarded for Best Camera at the 1994 New Zealand TV Awards.
The award-winning promo for King Kapisi's debut single is a family affair: bookended by shots of his two-year-old son, directed by his sister Sima and produced by another sister, Makerita. The song is a plea to his Samoan people to remember their pre-colonial past: “feed your kids not the church”. Filmed underwater at Wellington’s Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre, the video has islander Kapisi swimming through a sea of lava-lava. Made before Kapisi signed a record contract, the video won gongs at 1997’s BFM, Mai Time, and Flying Fish awards and a 2004 NZ On Air 1000 Music Video Celebration nod.
For their fourth series, the intrepid Moon TV crew set out to tour New Zealand in mobile broadcast vans. The backbone of this episode is a roadside interview with All Black Richie McCaw, who takes in stride a dodgy satellite dish and questions from a viewer about swallowing the contents of a lava lamp. Elsewhere there are appearances by show regulars Hamsterman (who does a strange dance) and Speedo Cops (dealing to a dangerous runaway trolley) — plus a Dragon's Den take-off, in which a potential financier is impressed by a vacuum cleaner refitted to make coffee.
“Bam bam bam, I wanna thank you Ma'am.” The D4 and The Datsuns led the Kiwi contribution to a turn of the century garage rock revival, winning nods from NME in the UK and praise for their energetic live gigs. This single from their first EP The D4 (1999) was released by Flying Nun. Directed by Andrew Moore, the video throws an FX kit of tricks (blurred focus, reverse negative, exploding lava cutaways) at the boys in order to capture the rock-out grunt of the song.
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.
Globetrotting New Zealander Len Lye was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts — film, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Inventing ways to make films without a camera, he became one of the pioneers of the genre later known as the music video. Later he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movements of the 1950s and 60s.