This special edition of the National Film Unit’s monthly magazine series looks at some of the “people, places and events filmed by our cameramen during the years 1941 - 1962”. The NFU’s 21st birthday review — compiled by David H Fowler — ranges from wartime newsreels to the post-war boom (factories, dams, industrial agriculture), from salvos to Peter Snell. Other images include Kiwi soldiers playing rugby in Korea, and cigarettes hanging from the lips of firemen fighting Christchurch's Ballantyne Department Store fire in 1947.
This 1944 newsreel documents arrivals at a Wellington wharf from the Middle East: New Zealand soldiers and Polish children. For the refugees it was the conclusion of an epic wartime survival tale: an exodus from Poland via Siberian labour camps, to being greeted by Prime Minister Peter Fraser in NZ. The Poles then take the train past waving crowds to their new home: a camp in Pahīatua. Twenty years later the children were revisited in Kathleen O’Brien’s classic 1966 documentary The Story of Seven-Hundred Polish Children.
Veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes brings his trademark stream of introspection and acerbic wit to the ancient cultures of Yemen in the Middle East. Holmes gets a lot of mileage from the country’s many curiosities: soldiers on patrol holding hands; the high volume manner of daily conversation and the ubiquitous Khat, a chewing plant known for its amphetamine-like effects. This excerpt sees him changing into an outfit that has more in common with the locals, and suddenly feeling much more welcome than before.
Actor Danielle Cormack travels through Jordan and Syria, and discovers a different reality from western perceptions of the Middle East. Cormack engages with countries awash with ancient history, warm people and picturesque vistas. Highlights of Cormack's trip include visiting the natural wonders of the Dead Sea and the desert valley of Wadi Rum. She stays in a Bedouin tent, and witnesses the man-made spectacles of Petra — the ancient rose city carved out of stone — Roman amphitheatres, and the Crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers.
This edition of Great War Stories follows the experiences of Kiwi horses in World War I by recounting the story of Bess, the thoroughbred stead of Colonel CG Powles of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment. The two would serve in the Middle East, and on the Western Front. Over 10,000 horses were sent to war; Bess was one of only four to return home. The clip finishes with an Anzac Day remembrance at Bess’s Rangitikei grave. The first series of seven short documentaries screened during TV3's primetime news in 2014; another series followed in 2015.
"You waste my time because you have not prepared for this interview. This interview frankly is a disgrace." This is an excerpt from Kim Hill's infamous 2003 interview with John Pilger, award-winning journalist, author and documentary-maker. Via satellite link from Sydney, Pilger discusses Middle East politics. He says what he would do about Saddam Hussein, and what he thinks about sanctions against Iraq. An angry Pilger says Hill is not asking informed questions. Hill pushes Pilger's book across the desk. Pilger implores Hill to: "Just read. Read. It takes time."
Captain Thomas Blake was one of about 40 veterinarians to serve New Zealand in the First World War. He accompanied some of the 10,000 Kiwi farm horses sent to the frontlines in the Middle East and, later France. They faced terrible conditions: sand and heat in Sinai, mud and rain in France, and suffered disease and horrific wounds. This Great War Stories episode explores the tight bond between horse and soldier. In the end, only four horses came home. Blake also made history: while in Egypt, he became the first Kiwi to marry while the troops were on active service.
Mintaha Beca hasn't seen Lebanon in 25 years. At the age of 86, she sets off from her adopted home of New Zealand to visit her birthplace, following two decades of war. After flying into Beirut with her daughter and grandson, filmmaker Steve La Hood, she is able to laugh about demands to pay a film equipment tax at Beirut's airport. Having witnessed destruction and construction in the former 'Paris of the Middle East', the group set off for the nearby city of Zahlé, where Beca was born. There she is reminded that some things stay the same, and others are no longer hers to own.
The late 60s saw globetrotting filmmaker Tony Williams shoot and edit two films for Iranian director Mahmoud Khosrowshahi. Here Williams chronicles an east meets west festival held in the Iranian city of Shiraz. Williams’ love affair with music and montage helps lend pace and life to a film whose sonic interests range from Iranian lutes and Indian oboes to American Cathy Berberian, who is busy turning comic strips into song. A glimpse of cosmopolitan Iran prior to the Iranian Revolution, it includes a rare interview with New Yorker classical music critic Andrew Porter.
Reg Dunbar’s war was mostly fought in the skies above Europe and North Africa. His first bombing raids over Germany were as an RAF tail gunner in a Vickers Wellington plane - a cold and lonely job he says. For the rest of that tour he was in the wireless operator’s seat, the job he’d trained for. In North Africa the squadron supported the Eighth Army, the famous Desert Rats. Reg also took part in the first thousand bomber raid over Cologne. Later he worked on the secret 'Moonshine' radar, which fooled the Germans into thinking a bomber formation was on the way.