In 1973 Alister Barry joined the crew of a protest boat (The Fri) to Mururoa Atoll, where the French Government were testing nuclear weapons. Barry records the assembly of the crew, the long journey from Northland, and their reception in the test zone; when The Fri was boarded and impounded by French military he had to hide his camera in a barrel of oranges. The Fri was a key part of activism that was formative for environmental group Greenpeace, and anti-nuclear sentiment in NZ. Barry's debut film screened primetime on NZ TV and gained international attention.
In this short Gallery interview — broadcast in June 1973 — Peace Media representative (and future TVNZ news boss) Bill Ralston talks about dwindling supplies for two private vessels that had left Aotearoa, to protest upcoming French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Ralston accuses Prime Minister Norman Kirk of being “a little bit heartless” for not assisting. Actually Kirk was realising plans for the HMNZS Otago to join the vigil. Protest yacht Fri was later stormed by French commandos, and the protests made world news. French nuclear testing in the Pacific finally ceased in 1996.
Alister Barry is the filmmaker behind a series of provocative and politically charged documentaries, most of them self-funded. His first documentary Mururoa 1973 tackled nuclear testing, and saw him on a boat headed into the middle of a bomb test zone. Over the next four decades Barry has continued to make significant political documentaries including Someone Else’s Country, The Hollow Men, Wildcat and Hot Air.
In July 1985 French government agents bombed Greenpeace vessel The Rainbow Warrior while it was moored at an Auckland wharf. The boat was set to protest French nuclear testing at Mururoa; photographer Fernando Pereira was killed. This TVNZ documentary, which screened in April 1986, explores the international incident and its fallout. This excerpt, featuring dramatic reconstructions, covers the arrival of the spies in New Zealand and their movements up to and after the bombing. Witnesses and key figures, such as Prime Minister David Lange, are interviewed.
Ralph Hotere (Te Aupōuri) is regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest artists. This documentary by Merata Mita provides a perspective on his world, largely by way of framing his extensive body of work. Hotere remains famously tight-lipped throughout, but there are interviews with artists, friends and commentators, alongside scenes of Hotere working and of his contemporary home context. Mita's impressionistic film is set to a Hirini Melbourne-directed score of jazz, māori and pop songs, and poetry reading by Hotere's first wife Cilla McQueen.
Pacific 3-2-1-Zero is a record of a performance of the eponymous work by renowned percussion group From Scratch. The work was devised in 1981 as a protest against nuclear testing and waste dumping in the Pacific. Ring-leader Phil Dadson, his players and their instruments — from whirling PVC pipes to biscuit tin lids — are arranged in the shape of the peace symbol. From Scratch's rhythms are cut with footage and facts of nuclear testing by director Gregor Nicholas to make for a resonant statement. The film won the Grand Prix at Midem’s 1994 Visual Music Awards.
This NZBC news item went to air the day after legendary Prime Minster Norman Kirk passed away. There are tributes (some off-screen) involving everyone from Kissinger, Muldoon and Trudeau to the Queen, and an interview with Deputy PM Hugh Watt. Reporter George Andrews outlines Kirk’s life and career, including footage of Kirk recalling his time working on the Devonport Ferry, and having to break a promise about a Springbok Tour. Andrews charts Kirk's rapid political rise, including becoming the country’s youngest mayor, and the mark he made on the international stage.
Pita Turei's wide-ranging documentary explores the history of nuclear testing in the Pacific — and its relationship with French colonialism in Tahiti (which locals claim has made them strangers or "Hotu Painu" in their own land). There is compelling testimony of serious health effects from previous tests; and Turei's cameras follow a Greenpeace protest flotilla to Moruroa as the French keep watch. Interwoven throughout is the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and its aftermath, as DGSE agents are tried and the ship finds a final resting place at Matauri Bay.
This documentary travels to nine Pacific nations, including New Zealand, to chronicle the long struggle to create a regional nuclear arms free zone. Interviews with politicians, activists, radiation victims and American and French admirals are counterpointed. When hopes of a treaty are dashed at a South Pacific Forum meet, it is pointed out that the David Lange-trumpeted independence of NZ's nuclear-free policy is evidently "not for export". Local music scores the doco, including Australia's Midnight Oil, whose lead singer (future MP Peter Garrett) is interviewed.
The birth of television in the 1960s meant that suddenly protests and civil unrest could be broadcast directly into Kiwi homes. This episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television looks at many of those events — involving everything from the Vietnam War and the Springbok tour, to Bastion Point and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. It also examines how being televised altered their impact. Interviews with both protestors and reporters provide a unique insight into what it was like to be living through extraordinary periods of New Zealand history.