"I like to pull rabbits out of hats to surprise people". So said young director David Blyth, before unleashing Angel Mine. Inspired partly by the surrealism of Luis Buñuel, Blyth's inventive debut is one of a handful of Kiwi experimental feature films to win mainstream release. Featuring a whitebread suburban couple and their liberated alter egos, the film explores ideas of consumerism, sexuality, the media, and taboo-breaking. The film excited criticism from Patricia Bartlett, and a notorious addition to its R18 certificate: "contains punk cult material."
Hayley Robertson picked up Best Actress at Tropfest 2013 for her role as a mysterious young woman in this thoughtful short drama set in a bus stop somewhere in rural New Zealand. In gumboots and flannel shirt, her character arrives at the stop to find a confident well-dressed young law student, turning over a $20 bill in his hand. Passing time while waiting, she challenges him to a game; the playing of which slowly reveals their differing approaches to life, and the ourcome leads to the film’s shocking conclusion. Director Nick Garrett also composed the score.
Starting in the questioning times of the late 60s, many New Zealanders began leaving town to set up their own communities, in search of alternative ways to live. This then and now documentary travels to communes long gone and still active, and tracks down many of those involved. Tim Shadbolt describes a time when people questioned "everything fearlessly ... without reserve and without restraint". The back to the land approach brought both satisfaction and fatigue. Dirty Bloody Hippies played to full houses at NZ's Documentary Edge Festival.
Sonny Day was a working musician from the late 50s to the early 90s, but recorded infrequently. 'Savin' Up', his first solo single, was a soulful cover of a song Bruce Springsteen gifted to his sax player Clarence Clemons — and an appropriate counterpoint to the glitz of 80s materialism. The video, shot in Auckland's Vulcan Lane plus the legendary Birdcage bar, has Sonny in his element, while performing with a band that includes Neil Edwards (ex-Underdogs), Tama Renata (ex-Herbs) and backing vocalists Annie Crummer, Beaver and Josie Rika.
David Blyth cemented his place in the Kiwi filmmaking renaissance with two films that left social realism far behind: 1978 experimental feature Angel Mine, and 1984's Death Warmed Up, New Zealand's first homegrown horror movie. Since then Blyth's work has included family friendly vampire film Moonrise, a number of documentaries on war, and varied works exploring sexuality.