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."
'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
This wartime propaganda film from the NFU celebrates the role of women in the Air Force. Established in 1941 to free up men for other duties, more than 4,700 women served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during WWII. The film is also a recruitment vehicle. It shows WAAF members in traditional (for the time) roles such as sewing and typing. But more male-dominated jobs are being taken on as women are trained as metal workers, mechanics and drivers. And when they’re not working, the women relax by "knitting, drinking a cup of tea and talking."
This Contact documentary explores what it takes to make it as a motor racing driver: from the roar of speed to the ratio of skill, chance, sponsorship and the role of mechanics. Kiwi star Dave McMillan is followed from days of thunder downunder (where a spectacular crash leads to Formula Pacific victory) to leading the Super Vees in US before a near fatal 1980 accident. McMillan bounced back to win the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1981 and in 1982 won the North American Formula Atlantic Championship. He was inducted into the NZ MotorSport Wall of Fame in 2006.
This Army recruiting film was made while New Zealand was still involved in the Vietnam War. While its emphasis is on the various trades, such as carpentry, engineering and radio operation, which can be learned in the army, it doesn't shy away from the purely military aspects. Soldiers are trained in unarmed combat, parachuting and jungle warfare. Exercises at the Waiouru Army Camp involving armoured support are also featured. Women are included, but in 1966 they fulfil roles in signals and nursing to free up men for combat duties.
This late 70s gender politics satire was a Television One sitcom written by future Gloss creator Rosemary McLeod; it was broadcast live-to-air from Avalon Studios. In this episode, Ginette McDonald’s lippy feminist withholds the joy of sex from her hippy hubbie, and Bruno Lawrence (sporting a magnificent anti-comb over) is the unreformed motorhead neighbour whose hangover cure is beer and cornflakes. Lawrence’s larrikin performance in the show was spotted by director Roger Donaldson who cast Bruno in his breakout big screen lead role: Al Shaw in Smash Palace.
This 1982 film, made for the New Zealand Council for Recreation and Sport, is an impressionistic exploration of play. Child narrators talk about what play means to them, while the images capture young people engaged in recreation. The focus is on informal play: kids and teenagers at playgrounds, hunting for frogs, reading, skylarking in the snow, doing cartwheels on the beach, fixing motorbikes, skipping, stargazing and playing Space Attack. Seagulls inspire dreams of flight for a young girl, and a fancy dress ball for adults shows the enduring spirit of play.
Raoul Island is nearly 1000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand. For this Christmas Day 1988 report, TV One's Kurt Sanders paid a visit to the four-person NZ meteorological team serving there (plus Smelly the dog — “the unchallenged King of the Kermadecs”). Sanders follows future One News weather presenter Karen Olsen (then Karen Fisher) as she milks the cow, and heads through the nikau to take readings in the crater of Raoul’s active volcano. The uniquely-evolved island is now the Department of Conservation's most remote reserve.
This motors'n'mullets doco focuses on a group of men, women and their families who are obsessed by stock car racing. Shot by Stuart Dryburgh, it follows a group of drivers and their crews as they ready for Saturday night racing in the mud at Waikaraka Park Speedway, Onehunga. Hours are spent preparing, and repairing the one-and-a-half tonne cars that can travel at speeds of up to 112 kmph in one of the few full contact motor sports. Passion, ego and native cunning fuel the drama, and injuries and personal sacrifices are the price for the part-time petrol heads.
This documentary uses archive footage and interviews to tell the story of motor-racing legends Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, and Chris Amon. The trio topped podiums in the sport's 'golden age' — one of those eras when unlikely Kiwi talent managed to dominate a truly global sport. The Team McLaren racing team that four times Grand Prix winner Bruce McLaren founded in 1966, has been the most successful in Formula One. That same year McLaren and Amon teamed up to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in 1967 Hulme was Formula One world champion.