In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor 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. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
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 — possibly due to the public urination, lane-crossing, chauvinism and pig's head activity.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) was set in a North Island timber town. Its portrait of the town’s folk offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; viewers and reviewers praised its Swannie-clad authenticity. This first episode sees a culture clash as a motorcycle gang (including a young Bruno Lawrence) comes to town and causes trouble, running Ray (Geoff Murphy) off the road; and stranded townie Diana (Ginette McDonald) falls in love with a local axeman while hunting.
The highlight of this instalment of the NFU’s weekly newsreels is a report on a motorcycle grand prix, held at Cust in Canterbury, where speeds in excess of 100mph were reached in the 152 mile race — with 1,000 gallons of sump oil sprayed on roads to prepare the racing surface. From the Wellington waterfront, there is coverage of the arrival of a delegation of Australian ex-servicemen to meet their NZ counterparts; and an emotional United Nations appeal asks viewers to donate one day’s pay, profits, work or produce to help the world’s needy children.
On a two week journey through India, Pio Terei discovers that if you want to relax, you should probably visit another country entirely. From Delhi to the deserts of Rajasthan, this full-length episode sees him trying every mode of transport — including tuk tuk, camel, elephant, motorcycle and train. Along the way he floats up the sacred Ganges River, visits the Taj Mahal, buys a Pashmina shawl for his wife, and eats a meal cooked in a dung oven, traditional-Rajasthani style. He also greets a great many locals, and remains upbeat despite the challenges of travelling in a very different culture.
This 1949 episode of the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series goes on a jaunty whistle-stop tour across the country. It takes off on TEAL’s new flying boat (Ararangi), from Wellington’s Evans Bay on a cruise over to the Marlborough Sounds and back. We then stop to smell the tulips on a South Canterbury tulip farm; before revving up for dusty motorhead bliss in Whanganui as a swarm of motorcyclists contest the Motorcycle Grand Prix. The reel pulls up in an Auckland factory for a fascinating look at the manufacture of glamourous nylon stockings.
This 1985 TVNZ documentary follows the recruitment of three new pilots into the Red Checkers acrobatic flying squadron of the Royal NZ Air Force. The pilots train to fly formations, loops and low level passes. There are close calls, and interviews with pilots and their spouses. What does it take to be a Kiwi Top Gun? Squadron leader (and future NZ Defence Force chief) Bruce Ferguson: "he's got to have confidence in himself, his abilities and to be a wee bit of a showman." The documentary marked one of the earliest directing credits for Emmy Award-winner Mike Single.
Love, Speed and Loss is an extended documentary about racer Kim Newcombe, who turned heads in the 1970s 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 charts the couple's travels in 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 three Air NZ Screen gongs.
Pre-dating Peter Jackson's arrival (Bad Taste) by three years, New Zealand's first horror movie sees Michael Hurst making his movie debut as he fights mutants (including Bruno Lawrence) on Waiheke Island. Hurst's character is out to avenge the mad scientist who forced him to kill his parents. A grand prize-winner at a French fantasy festival (with cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky on the jury), David Blyth's splatterfest marked the first of many horrors funded by the NZ Film Commission. It was also the first local showcase of the smoothly-flowing Steadicam camera.
In this National Film Unit-produced 'documentary' a circus sets up at the beach. Made for the Ministry of Works to stir debate about the use of coastal land, director Michael Reeves' wiggy treatment of the subject situates the film in the 'frustrated auteur meets sober commission' NFU tradition. Ringmaster Ian Mune is a seaside Willy Wonka canvassing claims to the coast. Demands of development, recreation, and housing are dramatised — including a bizarre look at stranger danger in suburbia, and a graphic illustration of the risks of off-mains sewerage treatment.