This National Film Unit magazine film begins with a choir performing the classic 'Pokarekare Ana' in the acoustically-blessed depths of the Waitomo Caves. The second item involves a visit to a toy factory, deep in preparation for Christmas. Disembodied doll heads fill a bin, while elsewhere factory staff add eyes, and blacken the teeth of rocking horses. There are also teddy bears, electric trains and rows of toy trucks. The narrator explains the joy the toys will bring come Christmas: “a production line to delight children everywhere — fantasy from an industrial Santa Claus”.
A young woman in colonial New Zealand (played by Jodie Foster, post-Taxi Driver pre-Oscars) flees an orphanage to find herself trapped in an arranged marriage to an older businessman (fellow US actor John Lithgow). Voyeurism, hypnotism and dodgy doctoring feature in the thriller from US director Michael Laughlin, from a screenplay by Jerzy Skolimowski. Mesmerized was made in NZ as an international co-production with RKO during the 80s tax break era. It was released in the US as My Letter to George in 1986. Laughlin also shot cult horror Dead Kids (1981) in NZ.
Framed around a visit to New Zealand by Irish-born entertainer Danny La Rue, this all-singing all-dancing spectacular was recorded over three days in March 1980. The “fella in a frock” was famed for his drag acts and double entendres. Comedians Jon Gadsby and David McPhail provide local support as Marlene Dietrich visits a farm, Mae West visits the All Blacks changing room, and Margaret Thatcher meets Robert Muldoon (McPhail). Filmed at Avalon Studios, the revue was a co-production with London Weekend Television, made during the golden era of NZ TV variety shows.
A beautiful Wellington day greets passengers from the Southern Cross at the start of this 1950s magazine film. Seen here on her maiden voyage around the world, the cruise ship Southern Cross was built to carry immigrants from Europe. Meanwhile, students at what was then New Zealand's only fully residential teachers' college (near Auckland) are seen studying, before taking time off for dancing and sport. A trip to New Caledonia rounds up the report with the unveiling the Cross of Sacrifice, a memorial to the 449 Kiwis who died without a grave in the South Pacific during WWII.
Directed by Tainui Stephens, this 1990 TVNZ series surveyed Māori contemporary music. This second episode looks at the showband era (1950s - 70s), when musicians mixed genres (electric guitar, rock’n’roll) with Māori culture, to make a unique contribution to Kiwi show business. Acts like The Howard Morrison Quartet, The Māori Volcanics, The Quin Tikis and The Māori Hi-Fives took songs from marae to international cabarets. Music historian Chris Bourke praised the series for marking the role of showbands in the whakapapa of entertainers from Billy T James to Rim D Paul.
This 2002 documentary explores the stories behind one of Aotearoa’s most beloved songs: ‘Pokarekare Ana’. Claims for the authorship of the waiata aroha are examined, and Kiwis famous and lesser known reflect on the song’s place in the culture. Directed by Chas Toogood, the doco features classic performances: from St Joseph’s Girls’ Choir singing in the Waitomo Caves in 1960, to Inia Te Wiata going low in English, Kiri Te Kanawa soaring in concert, Hinewehi Mohi enlisting a 30,000 strong league crowd as backing singers, and sailing away in a 1987 America’s Cup campaign song.
After three years as a high school teacher, Masterton-raised Amanda Billing began a decade long run on Shortland Street in 2004. Four years later her character, feisty doctor Sarah Potts, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, in an extended storyline that won praise from many real life MS sufferers. When her character passed away suddenly in mid 2014, a tribute page attracted hundreds of positive comments. Since then Billing has presented Sensing Murder, acted in Find Me a Māori Bride and The Bad Seed, and displayed her musical talents in Cabaret, The Threepenny Opera and Auckland’s Jubilation Choir.
Veteran producer Tom Parkinson has worked with some of New Zealand television's most popular comedians, including David McPhail, Jon Gadsby, and the late Billy T James (who he discovered in an Avondale Rugby League club). He also directed adventure series Hunter's Gold — whose international success helped launch a run of Kiwi-made children's dramas — and produced many international co-productions.
Mitchell Hawkes' list of directing credits ranges from The X Factor to The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta. His event directing skills have gained him a go-to reputation for covering high profile concerts, music awards and comedy galas. In 2016 Hawkes formed company Ruckus Media with Nigel Latta and producer Arwen O’Connor. Their shows include live broadcast What Next? and award-winner Born This Way: Awa's Story.
Jack Body, OMNZ, composed for everything from gamelan orchestras to the Kronos Quartet, and was a leading figure in awakening local interest in Asian and Pacific music. His soundtrack work ranged across children’s tales, te reo dramas and nature films. His collaborations with director Vincent Ward include classic film Vigil, and (with John Gibson), 2008’s Rain of the Children. Body passed away on 10 May 2015.