In the first 10 minutes of this TV3 comedy, Axl (Emmett Skilton) has a close shave outside the bottle store on the eve of his 21st birthday, but that’s nothing compared to the meteors, earthquake and a blood red Mission Bay that follow. By episode end Axl learns that he and his Kiwi bloke older brothers are also … Norse gods. From Outrageous Fortune creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the light-hearted lad fantasy saga gained a loyal following and — in a rare example of an NZ TV export to the US — the three series screened on the SyFy channel from July 2014.
A heartwarming tribute to the spirit of togetherness, this Dave Dobbyn classic celebrates Aotearoa's many colours. Forklift drivers, shop owners, children and (then) asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui lend weight to the welcome, as does the declaration at the end: "We come from everywhere. Speak peace and welcome home." Taken from 2005 album Available Light, Dobbyn's song became an unofficial anthem to many expats. Dobbyn went on to sing it at the 2006 launch of a NZ memorial in London, at concerts after the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks — and in te reo version 'Nau Mai Rā'.
Presented by Kenneth Cumberland, Landmarks looked at New Zealand history through the landscape — and at man "coming to terms" with it. In this episode Aotearoa's "last, lonely, remote" geography is framed as a stimulus for ingenuity. A narrative of "triumph over the elements" finds its flagbearer in the DIY story of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton. Cumberland is donnish but game in pursuit of telling landmarks: exposing seashells alongside the Napier-Taupō highway (700 metres above sea level) like a downunder Darwin, or in a gas mask on an erupting White Island.
This film documents Auckland's Round the Bays run. In 1980 jogging was booming, with coach Arthur Lydiard and a band of Olympic champs (Snell, Walker, etc) inspiring the way. Here, participants run and reflect, from a blind runner, to children and an army squad. Slo-mo sweat, sinew and samba shots frame the 70,000 runners as members of an infectious cult chasing the piper around the waterfront. Adidas, terry towelling and facial hair make the film a relaxed 70s update on Olympiad; directed by Sam Pillsbury it won awards at Chicago and Torino festivals.
“I’d no idea what I’d been missing!” This 1985 film pitches Aotearoa as a destination to our Aussie cobbers. Long haul air travel had led to a tourism boom, and promo campaigns were becoming increasingly sophisticated. This effort tries to overcome expectations of NZ as a place for oldies where “nothing is ever open”. A dinky-di Sydney family go on a tour of “Kiwiland” for a smorgasbord of sun, sea and snow. There’s crayfish and wine on the sand, and Barry Crump tells a less than 100% Pure tale at the pub. Australian John Sheerin (McLeod's Daughters) plays Dad.
Veteran weatherman Jim Hickey sums up A Flying Visit at the start of the first episode: “We’re going to be visiting some of the more unusual and out of the way places, and I’ll be chatting with the locals and they can tell me what makes their little place tick”. He touches his Cessna 182 down on NZ’s northernmost airstrip, meets a pig hunting nana, flies by the lighthouse and Ninety Mile Beach, then crosses to Russell to meet a boogie-boarding dog, a lawn-mowing goat, a uniquely-painted ute — and check out some history. Then it's a flying visit to giant kauri Tāne Mahuta and its kai cart.
After Governor Hobson’s stroke, Willoughby Shortland stepped in and sent the Treaty south in the hope of more signatories. This fourth episode of comedian Mike King’s Treaty discovery series searches for where the sheet was signed on the Manukau Harbour. King learns of an (unfulfilled) ancient prophecy, and why Ngāti Whātua chief Apihai Te Kawau agreed to sign. King then heads across the harbour and uses his mission as an excuse to visit the Kāwhia Kai Festival, where he learns about the influence of the incoming “great white wave” on signatories.
This 1988 film details a mission by 100 men to paddle a huge waka taua (war canoe) from Waitangi to Whangaroa, chronicling their spiritual and physical journey en route. The camera takes in training, the gruelling 10 hour, 70 kilometre passage, and the vessel's arrival in Whangaroa Harbour to mark Whangaroa County’s centennial. The waka, Ngātokimatawhaorua, was named after Kupe’s original ocean-voyaging canoe. Beached at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, it is the largest waka in existence. This was veteran filmmaker Tainui Stephens' first documentary as a director.
Anzac Wallace made one of the most memorable debuts in New Zealand cinema when he starred as avenging guerilla leader Te Wheke in classic Māori Western Utu. The former trade union delegate followed it with movies The Silent One (1984) and Mauri (1988) and pioneering Māori TV series E Tipu E Rea. He passed away on 8 April 2019.
Should Clive Sowry ever choose to enter Mastermind, his knowledge of the National Film Unit will give his competitors a definite run for their money. Sowry worked at the government filmmaking organisation for 14 years, including nine as the NFU's archivist. He went on to undertake a programme that saved 100s of local films, and has written often about filmmaking in New Zealand — including for NZ On Screen.