Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
This Contact episode goes behind the scenes on a big budget commercial from the early days of the Kiwi film renaissance: a 1982 Crunchie bar ad which owes so much to Star Wars, the film crew even call their villain Darth. After 12 hour days working inside the Waitomo Caves, a move to Ninety Mile Beach sees the weather playing havoc with sets and schedules. Seeking fresh faces, commercials king Geoff Dixon (Crumpy and Scotty) cast his lead actors in Australia. Television adverts were even made to announce the arrival of the ad — which plays over the closing credits.
Director Florian Habicht returns to his Northland home turf to chronicle the annual Snapper Classic Fishing Contest, in this full-length documentary. First prize is $50,000, but the participants chase the joy of the cast as much as the purse. The solitary figures on the epic sweep of Ninety Mile Beach provide poetic images, as Habicht teases out homespun philosophy while fishing for answers on love, the afterlife and whether fish have feelings. The soundtrack features 50s style instrumentals from Habicht regular Marc Chesterman, plus singalongs on the sand and at the local pub.
This NFU tourism promo from 1986 showcases all that the north of the North Island has to offer. As holidaymakers Dave and Julia peruse the sights and sounds of Auckland, they provide a high speed guided tour of its nightlife and many attractions. After Julia exits unexpectedly for LA — possibly to moonlight on another tourist film — Dave is joined by Jacky. The two venture up to Ninety Mile Beach and, after exploring the native bush and enjoying a spot of fishing, end their stay with a bonfire by the sea, a stark contrast to the cosmopolitan delights of Auckland.
Veteran weatherman Jim Hickey sums up A Flying Visit at the start of the first episode: “We’re going to be visiting some of the more unusual and out of the way places, and I’ll be chatting with the locals and they can tell me what makes their little place tick”. He touches his Cessna 182 down on NZ’s northernmost airstrip, meets a pig hunting nana, flies by the lighthouse and Ninety Mile Beach, then crosses to Russell to meet a boogie-boarding dog, a lawn-mowing goat, a uniquely-painted ute — and check out some history. Then it's a flying visit to giant kauri Tāne Mahuta and its kai cart.
Te Araroa is a 3000 kilometre, Aotearoa-long walkway. In this Māori Television series, host Pio Terei walks it, sampling “New Zealand experiences”. In this first episode, Terei treks his home turf: the trail’s northernmost stage, from Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga) to Kaitaia. Pio goes fishing in Ahipara; gets kitted up with a knife, and a kauri tokotoko (walking stick); gets stung by a manuka honey bee; meets the Tarara (NZ Dalmatian) people, and talks mission statements and hangi with members of the hīkoi that "changed the face of the nation" – the 1975 Māori Land March.
Sir Ed Hillary, then in his early 50s, acts as tour guide to remote New Zealand. In the far north he receives a tokotoko (walking stick) and admires the Aupōuri people’s connection with the land. He goes bush and dives for scallops off Stewart Island and fishes on a Hollyford sandspit. In the Alps he tackles a 1971 grand traverse of Mount Cook with Harry Ayres and other mates. Not bad for a self-described "middle-aged family man who has tried to keep himself reasonably fit". Sir Ed narrates, and his down-to-earth passion for adventure makes this an inspiring travelogue.
The electronica of Breaks Co-op’s 1995 debut Roofers offered few hints to the more organic sounds of their second album The Sound Inside. Its hit single ‘The Otherside’ is a sun-kissed anthem (and a NZ Music Awards Single of the Year) featuring lush acoustic guitar and a soulful vocal from Andy Lovegrove. Director Tim Groenendaal’s video is an idyllic summer road trip by Holden Kingswood through the Far North and down Ninety Mile Beach (with Zane Lowe’s backseat role prefiguring the step back he would take from the band as his UK radio career blossomed).
The Aupōuri Peninsula - in Maui's legend, the tail of the fish - runs along the top of the North Island, edged on one side by Ninety Mile Beach. In Te Hapua, the most northerly community on the mainland, Gary McCormick helps out at the marae as preparations begin for a cultural festival for the district's primary schools. The students will perform kapa haka, Dalmatian dances and take-offs of Shortland Street. This Heartland episode evocatively melds footage of children practising and performing, with oyster farmers catching fish for the hangi.
Though most of his films have been documentaries, Florian Habicht's work has often blurred the boundaries between truth and fiction. His CV includes offbeat fairytale Woodenhead, two love letters to New Zealand's far north (Kaikohe Demolition, Land of the Long White Cloud), films on theatre legend Warwick Broadhead and Brit band Pulp, and his award-winning, genre-stretching romance Love Story.