Called up at the start of World War II, George Shadbolt spent six years in the British army. As a member of the Royal Corps of Signals he spent much of that time behind the lines, installing and maintaining vital communications networks. In the course of that work George, now 99, covered 1000s of kilometres through North Africa and the Middle East. It wasn’t until late in the war that he saw action in Italy, bringing communications lines to tanks at the front. The task offered little protection; Shadbolt deemed it the most dangerous job in the army.
This documentary is about champion speedway driver Ivan Mauger, who powered and slid his motorbike around oval tracks to a record six individual world speedway titles, from 1968 to 1979. Interviews with Mauger and his family cover his long career, from his boy racer beginnings — he argues that in Spain the heroes are bullfighters, but in Christchurch they were speedway riders — to his Western Springs farewell, and a tribute from David Lange. Mauger's focus on winning comes through: "if you show me a good loser you show me someone who consistently loses".
This notorious film looks at '70s bikie culture, focusing on Auckland's Hells Angels (the first Angels chapter outside of California). These not-so-easy riders — with sideburns and swastikas and fuelled by pies and beer — rev up the Triumphs, defend the creed, beat up students, cruise on the Interislander, provoke civic censure, and attend the Hastings Blossom Festival. After a funeral, Aotearoa's sons of anarchy head back on the highway ... Bikies was banned by the NZBC, perhaps piqued by the public urination, chauvinism and PETA-unfriendly pig's head activity.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway; in 1991, as an unlikely underdog, he came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. But when they get to Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle which includes at least ten major innovations.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".
This excerpt from mid 90s show Newsnight features the extraordinary story of Max Corkill and his motorcycle-riding cat Rastus. After having Rastus dumped on him as a kitten while he was motorcycling around Canada, Max took him along on the road. Quickly becoming comfortable on the bike, Rastus would stand on the handlebars as they drove along. Back in New Zealand, the pair became community favourites, and regularly raised money for the local SPCA. They passed away on 20 January 1998, after being involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver.
Harold Beven reckons he’s the luckiest man to serve in the Second World War. Born in a village east of London, he saw plenty of action in the (UK) Royal Navy, but by his own admission, never got his feet wet. Joining up as soon as possible after the outbreak of war, Beven served in almost all the naval theatres. As a Chief Petty Officer, he was involved in the evacuations of Greece and Crete — and later the allied invasions of Sicily and Italy — as well as the D-Day invasion of France. At the age of 96, Beven remembers entire conversations as if it was yesterday.
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.
Love, Speed and Loss is an extended documentary about racer Kim Newcombe, who turned heads in the 70s on a König motorbike he developed and designed himself. Built around home movie footage and interviews with his charismatic, straight-talking widow Janeen, the film follows the couple's travels across Europe, and triumph on the track. Newcombe was killed racing in 1973, and posthumously finished second in that year's World 500cc Championship. Love, Speed and Loss won best documentary at the 2007 Qantas TV Awards and Air NZ Screen gongs for documentary, directing, and editing.