Leon Narbey is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and lauded cinematographers. His talents have contributed to roughly 20 features, including Whale Rider, Desperate Remedies, The Price of Milk and No.2. Narbey's work as a director includes movies The Footstep Man and Illustrious Energy, an acclaimed drama about Chinese goldminers.
For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
Acclaimed Director of Photography Leon Narbey has had a hand in many of New Zealand’s best known films. He directed the feature film Illustrious Energy in 1987, and has been the DOP on other major film projects such as Desperate Remedies; The Price of Milk; and the smash hit Whale Rider. More recent films include the Topp Twins doco Untouchable Girls and Samoan language feature The Orator.
This collection is a celebration of the eccentric, exuberant career of NZ screen industry frontrunner Tony Williams. As well as being at the helm of many iconic ads (Crunchie, Bugger, Spot, Dear John) Williams made inventive, award-winning indie TV documentaries, and shot or directed pioneering feature films, including Solo and cult horror Next of Kin.
A Leon Narbey-directed documentary about English conservationist Richard St Barbe Baker. 'St Barbe' (here aged 92) is interviewed at a South Island station where he presciently warns of desertification and laments the earth being "skinned alive". The visionary tree-planting advocate founded the organisation Men of the Trees (now the International Tree Foundation) to promote reforestation and protect trees, from 5000-year-old bristlecone pines to giant kauri. The film includes the inspiring St Barbe's tree-hugging exercise regime: two minutes morning and night.
This documentary follows the 1973 Heatway Rally, a mud and oil-splattered event in which 120 drivers covered 3600 miles over eight days. Directed by future advertising legend Tony Williams, it was a major logistical exercise, with five camera units, shot by a who’s who of the 70s New Zealand film industry. In addition to high speed on-and-off road action, it includes an explanation of what co-drivers actually do, a chance for a driver’s wife to ride in a rally car, and driving and cornering montages set to orchestral accompaniment. It won the 1974 Feltex Award for Best Documentary.
Kiwi avant-garde artist and musician Phil Dadson is the subject of 80-minute documentary Sonics from Scratch. Dadson has conjured sounds and experimental films from all manner of objects and locales. The documentary charts his love affair with sound, including performances with From Scratch, who created percussive music from PVC pipes. Among those appearing are some of the group's rotating ensemble of members, including Don McGlashan and cinematographer Leon Narbey. Sonics from Scratch screened at the 2015 New Zealand International Film Festival.
Writer/director Tusi Tamasese won multiple awards for his first feature, Samoan drama The Orator - O Le Tulafale. This New Zealand-set follow-up involves a Samoan father whose daughter Ilisa (Shortland Street's Frankie Adams) returns home, pregnant and badly beaten. Uelese Petaia (star of Albert Wendt adaptation Sons for the Return Home) is the boxer turned baker, in a tale of family, redemption and revenge. One Thousand Ropes debuted in the Panorama section of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. The clip captures the recording of the movie's soundtrack in a Wellington chapel.
This documentary focusses on six New Zealand women artists whose careers were on the rise in the early 1990s. They work in a variety of mediums, explore ambiguity and subversion, and question gender roles. Photographer Christine Webster works with models, lighting and costume to create rich, theatrical images. Lisa Reihana delivers "radical statements" via light-hearted animation. Filmmaker Alison Maclean talks about the inspiration she found in Rotorua and channelled into her debut feature Crush. Also featured: artists Merylyn Tweedie, Alexis Hunter and Julia Morison.
After making music overseas as part of theatre troupe Red Mole, Jan Preston and Neil Hannan headed home and founded the band that would be known as Coup D'Etat. Preston took lead vocals on this, their debut single. The video — by cinematographer Leon Narbey — sees her performing in a little red dress, while ex Hello Sailor guitarist Harry Lyon continues the colour theme. Then they head out on the highway. 'No Music on My Radio' proved a sadly apt title: local radio showed little interest. The band soon hit the airwaves (and the top 10), with 'Doctor I Like Your Medicine'.