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."
Written by Fiona Samuel (Marching Girls, Bliss, Home Movie) and produced by Ginette McDonald for television’s Montana Sunday Theatre, Face Value is a trilogy of monologues delivered by three separate women. While each woman’s story and background are vastly different, they are all united by their shared quest to find happiness amidst personal trauma. In A Real Dog, Carol Smith’s performance is spot-on as Lynette, a conflicted new-age hippie who struggles to recreate harmony when a new flatmate (and her estranged boyfriend) moves in.
In the first episode of The Cult, headstrong lawyer Michael Lewis (Shortland Street's Renato Bartolomei) joins a volatile group in a Northland house. Each of them has lost a family member or friend to commune Two Gardens, and wants to get them out. Meanwhile, inside Two Gardens, Michael's son is asked to "renounce" his own brother. Created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox, The Cult won Qantas awards for acting, design, music, cinematography, and editing — and was nominated for another four acting awards. Peter Burger (Until Proven Innocent) directs this first episode.
Taro planter Lui’s grief for his dead wife is blighting his life and crops. A widow, Malia, is bound by anger to the grave of her abusive husband, as the rising sea slowly drowns it. When Lui and Malia meet by chance, he’s provided with a path from his hurt. Filmed in Samoan on the island of Upolu, and directed by Samoan-born Tusi Tamasese, the short is a fable-like meditation on communion, cooking and sacred places. It was selected for the Clermont-Ferrand and Hawaii film festivals, and was the precursor to Tamasese’s Venice-selected debut feature, The Orator.
Actor Miranda Harcourt directs an ode to her broadcaster father Peter in this short documentary. The film emerges from vocal chords (via an endoscope) and uses the tools of her father’s trade as a starting point for a free-ranging meditation on repression, shell shock and family ghosts. Peter’s wartime job involved vetting messages home from the troops to check that the soldier hadn’t been killed. Post-war, Peter was dumb-struck for a year, at a time when people didn’t “talk about their deeper feelings”. Voiceover won Best Short at the 1997 NZ Film and TV Awards.
Late 90s Flying Nun act The D4 are at their rambunctious best with this meditation on indecision in the face of endless possibilities from their second and final album. Director Wade Shotter’s one take video was made after one and a half days of rehearsals, and bravely shot on 35mm film (with the 10th take as the keeper). In a feat of engineering, logistics and timing, all of the action — cheerleaders, carnival strongmen, sets and backdrops — happened on stage (at Takapuna’s Bruce Mason Centre) and was captured in the camera with nothing added in post.
When photographer John Lake offered to collaborate with Wellington band MarineVille, the song he chose was ‘Time’: a meditation on the relentless ways that time plays out in our lives taken from their third album Fowl Swoop. The resulting video, shot around the suburb of Newtown over three hours, stars drummer Greg Cairns desperately attempting to flee the inevitable march of time — only to get his comeuppance from the grim reaper, a room full of people he offended along the way (“Vitutaa” is Finnish for “We are annoyed”) and a catering pack of cream.
'Don't Forget Your Roots' was released in July 2011 as the second single from Six60's self-titled debut album. The laid back meditation on family reached number two on the singles chart. The video, directed by Robin Walters, is set around the student accommodation area of north Dunedin, where the band members met while three of them were studying at Otago University. Some of the city's most notorious flats are featured, including 660 Castle Street where three of the band members lived, and the group first rehearsed.
This BBC2-screened film is a look at the European art world of the late 1960s, and a meditation on the nature of art and the pricing of art, shot by Tony Williams. The origins of this film are suitably cosmopolitan. It was initiated by an Iranian student – and underwritten by Jeremy Fry from Cadbury Fry Hudson. Its focus is Takis, a Greek artist who creates kinetic sculptures out of discarded electronic objects (at times reminiscent of Len Lye’s work), and plans to mass produce cheaper versions of his work to make his art accessible. But will it still be art?
A lawyer by trade, Alice Snedden discovered that her passion was performing comedy while living in the United States.