It's hard to reduce legendary band Split Enz down to a single sound or image. Soon after forming in 1973, they began dressing like oddball circus performers, and their music straddled folk, vaudeville and art rock. Later the songs got shorter, poppier and — some say —better, and the visuals were toned down...but you could never accuse the Enz of looking biege. With Split Enz co-founder Tim Finn turning 65 in June 2017, this collection looks back at one of Aotearoa's most successful and eclectic bands. Writer Michael Higgins unravels the evolution of the Enz here.
Celebrating the “transformative power of dance”, Dancing in the Dark centres on Peter Vosper, an inventor who has designed his own custom light suit as an outlet for his creativity. It also makes the perfect addition to No Lights No Lycra, an event where participants spend an hour dancing to upbeat music in the dark. While most dancers can’t be seen (as is the appeal of the event — dance like no one’s watching), Peter’s glowing suit takes centre stage and makes for quite the spectacle. The film is part of the Loading Docs series of shorts, made for exhibition online.
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."
One of New Zealand television's more notorious episodes, the 1987 Gofta Awards start promisingly with an extended montage of Auckland scenes (just before the sharemarket crash). It's downhill from there. Presenters Nic Nolan and Leeza Gibbons (Entertainment This Week) look bizarre in silver suits; an underfed and overexcited audience grows more and more vocal; special guest John Inman (Mr Humphries from English sitcom Are You Being Served?) is heckled; and things come badly unstuck as timing issues see winners turned away as they try to collect their awards.
Chris Knox's grungy collage-style clip suits this mournful song perfectly. The sequence offering multifarious images of what “turning brown” might mean — from a deep tan to race-swapping — is a particular delight. The shot of Knox's daughter Leisha as a toddler, with the scratched in message "there is always hope" gives the clip a surprisingly poignant ending. In his ScreenTalk interview for NZ On Screen, Knox recalled it was a technical problem that led to him scratching directly onto the film, in the style of his hero Len Lye.
Beyond Reasonable Doubt reconstructs the events surrounding a notorious New Zealand miscarriage of justice. Farmer Arthur Allan Thomas was jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe. Directed by John Laing, and starring Australian John Hargreaves (as Thomas) and Englishman David Hemmings (Blowup, Barbarella), the drama benefitted from immense public interest in the case. Thomas was pardoned while the film was in pre-production, and he saw some scenes being made. It became New Zealand's most successful film until Goodbye Pork Pie in 1981.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
Being a big man with a “face like the map of Ireland” made him an unlikely starter, but in the mid-70s Glyn Tucker was one of New Zealand’s best known screen personalities. The larger-than-life character was a racing guru, and also a popular radio then TV presenter: his television roles ranged across sports commentator, punting pundit, crooner and light entertainment show host.
Filmmaker Stewart Main traverses India seeking enlightenment. There he meets ex-pat Kiwis who seem to have found it, which only leaves him feeling trapped in a life of the senses. Especially when he falls for his Indian sound recordist, Sreenu. Or so he would have us think. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art documentary slot, Main's startling, provocative film explores the cracks between the divine and the sensual, documentary and fiction. Director Andrew Bancroft writes about the result in this backgrounder.
Directed by Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table is adapted from author Janet Frame's renowned three-part autobiography. It threads together a series of images and scenes to evoke Frame's dramatic life story. Originally made as a TV drama, the much-acclaimed dramatisation won cinema release in 35 countries; it established Campion as a global director, launched actor Kerry Fox, and introduced new audiences to the "mirror city" of Frame's writing. This excerpt follows Frame's life-saving escape from Seacliff Asylum, to first publishing success at Frank Sargeson’s bach.