Some of New Zealand's most memorable screen images have come from the genre of science fiction: Bruno wandering man alone onto Eden Park in a nightie; giant slugs living under Rangitoto. From alien hunters to futuristic fuel wars to nuclear volcanoes, this collection is a showcase of film and TV that has imagined 'what if?' versions of life in the shaky isles.
This 2015 edition in the Loading Docs series explores the past, present and future of Crystal Palace, a dilapidated but stately theatre on Auckland’s Mt Eden Road that has been drawing the curtains since the 1920s. Co-directed by Karl Sheridan and Robin Gee, who work under the Monster Valley moniker, the documentary canvasses the spilled Jaffas, dances, surf film screenings and local legends of the venue — and is also a plea to bring the ballroom and cinema back to life. In March 2016 Monster Valley answered their own call, and took over management of the theatre.
This episode of The Gravy takes an in-depth look at art in prisons. Host Warren Maxwell interviews inmates who have embraced painting or carving while serving time in Mt Eden, Paremoremo and Rimutaka prisons. At Rimutaka, art tutor Paul Bradley points out that art is a vehicle for change both for prisoners and the art audience, and former prisoners talk about how art has changed their lives for the better. Outside the walls, Warren visits at a caged exhibit of musical instruments at Artspace in Auckland and plays a few bars on the flute.
Secondary school Auckland Grammar is a local landmark, with a reputation for academic and sporting excellence. This documentary surveys the state school's traditions; the "ways of Grammar" include academic streaming, the prefect system, and sport (rowing trials and the traditional 1st XV match against King's are featured). It also touches on the lengths parents will go to enable their children to attend the prestigious boys' school. Old boys interviewed include cricketer Dion Nash, All Blacks Doug Howlett and Grant Fox, and broadcaster John Hawkesby.
A prequel to classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune, Westside travels back in time to meet young Rita (Antonia Prebble), Ted (David de Lautour) and their son Wolf West, on the make in West Auckland. This first episode opens with Ted leaving Mt Eden prison, then sets him on a safe-cracking plot that is aided by the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Prebble played Loretta West in Outrageous, and first took on the role of Rita in flashbacks from season four. Devised by Outrageous creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, Westside won acclaim: "all the hallmarks of a classic", said Stuff.
This episode of anthology series Winners & Losers takes a fresh angle on going straight. Smooth-talking criminal Mick (Ian Mune) dreams of starting over, by cultivating mushrooms with cellmate Charlie (Coronation Street's Ivan Beavis). Charlie claims to have committed a lawful murder, thanks to a technicality. In an inspired change to Barry Crump's original story, Mick commandeers a bus to finance the pair's plan. Crump praised the episode, but felt that Mick and Charlie treat their third cellmate unfairly. Director Roger Donaldson cameos in a red Swanndri during the bus scenes.
Screen taonga Ramai Hayward has lived many lives, and this Koha special touches on most of them. Still vibrant at age 73, Hayward climbs a favoured apricot tree from her Wairarapa childhood, kickstarting a journey through old haunts and celluloid: the school where she produced a play at 12, the photo studio she commanded during WW2, and the sprawling Mt Eden house that was filmmaking HQ for her and husband Rudall Hayward. Ramai also recalls pioneering films shot in China, an encounter with Chairman Mao, and bullying tactics by the CIA.
Man. Woman. Motorcycle. Beach. Road. This short film makes clear that Rodney Charters had a certain way with images, long before he got busy shooting television (24, Roswell) in the USA. Charters directed Film Exercise while he was an arts student in Auckland in the 1960s. It helped him win a place at London's Royal College of Art. Favouring music and unusual angles over dialogue, the film celebrates the joys of being young and on the move, while capturing scenes of Auckland nightlife including a Mt Eden party. The La De Da's supply the custom-built soundtrack.
Working away in a paint-encrusted studio with Hendrix cranked up to 10, often going days without sleep, Philip Clairmont was the archetypal tortured expressionist. This 1981 TVNZ profile explores his chaotic bohemian abode in Mount Eden, a house populated by the found objects and abandoned furniture that would inspire his dense, hallucinatory images. At one point the camera fixes on a single lino print that reads "art is my life". One would eventually consume the other — three years after this was filmed, Clairmont committed suicide at the age of 34.
In this 1998 documentary, made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand slot, prisoners provide straight-talking descriptions of life on the inside. Collectively rejecting any idea of prison as a soft option, they talk about missing sunlight, closing up emotionally, and how even “the staunchest” end up crying. One long-timer argues that imprisonment is an expected part of becoming a gang member. Statistics provide food for thought about the life cycle of criminality — 78 per cent of inmates have no school qualifications; 80 per cent were abused as children.