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.
Flip & Two Twisters is Shirley Horrocks' documentary about New Zealand-born artist Len Lye. Motion maestro Lye's international reputation rests on his work as a filmmaker and kinetic sculptor, and his lively contributions to the London and New York avant-garde. The documentary explores Lye's career and ideas, with the help of historical footage and excerpts from his films. It includes footage of Lye in typically exuberant form outlining his process, introduces many of his kinetic works, and documents how some of his most ambitious plans are being realised in New Zealand.
Central North Island art is spotlighted in this episode of the road trip arts show. Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and Nick Ward discuss Len Lye's 'Wind Wand' and visit Michael Smither works in a Catholic church. Novelist Shonagh Koea reads in her favourite antique shop while photographer Sarah Sampson serves tea and discusses her fabric work and "chick art". Rangi and Julie Kipa reconcile traditional Maori process with modern art, performance artists Matt and Stark deconstruct the family sedan; and, in Wanganui, Ross Mitchell-Anyon is proud to call himself a potter.
Four decades before starring in The Last Samurai, New Zealand’s most symmetrical volcano stole the limelight in this NFU short. Extolling a mantra of progress and change, Taranaki presents New Plymouth as regional hub and suburban paradise, surrounded by bays and gladioli. Narrator Paul Ricketts touches on a conflict-soaked past by recalling his great grandmother’s nightly refuge in a central city stockade, during the 1860s Taranaki Wars. Back in 1954, a fishing license costs two pounds, and co-operatively-run dairy factories produce over half the nation’s cheese.
The second feature film directed by writer Anthony McCarten (Ladies' Night) is a small tale with some big themes. Set in a New Plymouth car yard, the film chronicles an endurance contest in which a car will be awarded to the person who manages to keep their hands on it the longest. As night falls, solo mother Jess (Melanie Lynskey) finds herself fending off the attentions of an obstinate competitor (Craig Hall), with a much harsher vision of the world than hers. Inspired by similar real-life contests, McCarten based the film on his novel Endurance.
In this third episode of Captain’s Log, Peter Elliott tracks Captain Cook’s journey down the west coast of the North Island. First he takes the Ranui down to Kaipara Harbour, before hitching a ride on the old kauri schooner Te Aroha to Queen Charlotte Sound. Elliott recounts the story of Cook’s realisation that a strait existed between the two islands, before a brief trip to Wellington on (now defunct) catamaran The Lynx. The episode's final stop is Elliott’s hometown of Lyttelton on the peninsula formerly known as Banks Island, where he takes a hair-raising dive on a lifeboat.
New Zealand artist Michael Smither (well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks with Mountain) is a man of many theories and ideas. This film, made for TV, documents his experiments rebuilding eroded beaches around Taranaki with driftwood. Only partially successful, these experiments nonetheless reveal Smither as something of a visionary. They contrast with the New Plymouth City Council's own efforts to check sand erosion; and over two decades later, Smither's less orthodox methods look the more sensible, and sustainable.
Little Bushman muso Warren Maxwell goes west in this edition of The Gravy, to meet a trio of artists creating work in the shadow of Mt Taranaki. Waru Wharehoka, an autistic painter, makes abstract works, is obsessed with weapons and zombies, and takes Maxwell on a paddle beneath New Plymouth. Assemblage artist Dale Copeland scavenges plane wrecks on the mountain and dead friend's teeth for her art. And photographer Fiona Clark discusses why she used colour film to snap her controversial 1975 drag queen images, and using a photo to help save the Waitara River.
The winner of Tropfest 2013, Cappuccino Tango, is a caffeinated musical set at the Ozone Bean Store that gently pokes fun at the New Zealand-wide obsession with the black stuff. The customers sing the names of their favourite brews in an ever-building chorus, broken only by the scandalous arrival of a decaf drinker — who performs a tango with a fellow decafer — and then by a pair of beverage infidels. New Plymouth-based production company Touching Cloth had previously made a series of V48 Hour Film Challenge films and have a background in local theatre and TV production. Writer Andy Bassett also composed the tango-tastic score.
"So the Queen comes to New Zealand. 12,000 miles from the motherland she is not among strangers. She has come to her New Zealand home." When the Queen and Prince Philip began the first tour of NZ by a reigning monarch (soon after her coronation), a National Film Unit crew followed the journey, before condensing 40 days and 46 stops into a mere 25 minutes. Along the way the newly crowned Queen wears her coronation gown to open Parliament, and witnesses geysers, long-jumpers, Māori canoes, plus masses of enthused Dunedinites refusing to keep behind the barrier.