In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
Backch@t was an award-winning magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, right from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, these excerpts from the first episode come out guns blazing with a debate by panellists about Tania Kovats's controversial artwork 'Virgin in a Condom', the sculpture that caused national upset when it was exhibited at Te Papa in 1998. Managing to keep a panel discussion convivial rather than confrontational, Ralston handles the catholic debate with aplomb.
Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
Like the digital ‘mash-up’ concept to come, this 1970 film uses content from more than one source to create something new. In this film collage, relics of visual and material culture from New Zealand museums are combined to evoke life in earlier eras. These objects — from moa skeletons, to scrimshaw, to a stereoscope, and surveys of Māori culture and sex appeal (!) — are mixed with historical footage (including turn of the century Queen Street) and a classical score. Another Time was directed by Arthur Everard for the National Film Unit.
For this 1987 Kaleidoscope report, architectural commentator Mark Wigley uses Kiwi resort towns as fuel for an essay on local architecture. He visits Waitangi, arguing that Aotearoa should have followed the "rich ornamental example" of the Whare Rūnanga, instead of the restraint of the Treaty House. He praises Paihia’s "cacophony of bad taste" motels. In part two, he compares Queenstown and Arrowtown, and admires a gold dredge and the Skyline gondola. Wigley, then starting his academic career in the United States, would become an internationally acclaimed architectural theorist.
This NFU mini-biopic eulogises the 19th Century Māori leader Te Rauparaha. The Ngāti Toa chief led his people on an exodus from Kāwhia, to a stronghold on Kāpiti Island where he ruled — via musket, flax trade and diplomacy — over a Cook Strait empire extending south to Akaroa. The free-ranging film includes recreations of the 'Wairau Incident' which stirred fears of Māori uprising amidst settlers; Te Rauparaha’s ignominious 1846 arrest by Governor Grey; and the 1849 reburial on Kapiti of the "cannibal statesman" (evocatively rendered using inverted colours).
Kerre McIvor (then Kerre Woodham) hits Cambodia in this full-length Intrepid Journey. After sampling Vietcong tunnels in Vietnam, the self-confessed lover of home comforts crosses the border and confronts Cambodia's rough roads. Feeling guilty about complaining in a country that has endured so much, she is moved by the strong and joyful spirit of the people: 'they don't need pity, they just need a break.' Woodham visits former Khmer Rouge prison S21, makes a friend at "the Queen of Cambodian ruins", Angkor Wat, and has a memorable visit to an isolated, decaying French hotel.
This specially designed light and sound installation was projected onto the facade of the Carillion in Wellington's Pukeahu Park in 2016 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI. Archival material, like photographs and excerpts from letters, mix with original artwork inspired by natural imagery, and Māori and Pacific motifs, to tell Kiwi stories from the frontline. Among them are the HMS New Zealand's involvement in the Battle of Jutland, and important work by Kiwi tunnellers. This version is slightly expanded from the original 2015 film.
“Only 40 hours by air from San Francisco and six from Sydney, Auckland New Zealand is on your doorstep.” In 1952, NZ tourism was also a long way from a core contributor to the national economy. A flying boat and passenger ship deposits visitors in the “Queen among cities” for this National Film Unit survey of Kiwi attractions. The potted tour takes in yachting, the beach, postwar housing shortage, school patrols, dam building and the War Memorial Museum, before getting out of town into dairy, racing and thermal wonderlands, where “you can meet some of our Māori people”.
The third part of this NFU series on aviation in New Zealand jets off post-World War II, where wartime aircraft and crew provided a base for the National Airways Corporation (later Air New Zealand). The romance of travelling via flying boat made way for mass global air travel; and NZ tourism and airports rapidly became more sophisticated. Presenter Peter Clements looks at how the NZ environment spurred innovation (ski planes, top-dressing, heli deer hunting), and traces the lineage of contemporary garage aircraft makers to DIY first flyers like Richard Pearse.