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.
Actor Marshall Napier (Came a Hot Friday) has played a good number of unsympathetic cops over his long career. In Bellbird he displays a gentler side, as a Northland dairy farmer who is unable to express himself after his wife's death. His son (Cohen Holloway) and friends try to help in various ways. Director and schoolteacher Hamish Bennett based his script on memories of growing up in rural Northland. The film expands upon his award-winning short film Ross and Beth (2014). The cast also includes Rachel House. Bellbird was invited to screen at the 2019 Sydney Film Festival.
As the poster puts it, The Pā Boys is "about 'life, death and fu**ing good music'. It follows a Wellington band playing East Coast and Northland pubs, as they head for Cape Reinga. The trio find themselves on a roots journey that's both musical and personal (mateship, whānau, whakapapa). The cast includes singer Francis Kora, with songs by Warren Maxwell. Released in Kiwi cinemas on Waitangi Day 2014, Himiona Grace's first feature won positive reviews, and a Best Film gong at the 2014 Wairoa Māori Film Festival. Ainsley Gardiner (Boy) and Mina Mathieson (Warbrick) produced.
Open Home was a 90s series looking at New Zealand homes and the people making, designing and living in them. This episode from the third season ranges from deconstructionism to DIY. Builder (and future Dunedin mayor) David Cull checks out a Northland glasshouse designed by Nigel Cook, before visiting the renovated Australian farmhouse and digital recording studio of Dragon band member Todd Hunter. Susan Wood tries translating the architectural theory of deconstructionism with the help of Auckland architects, including Mark Wigley.
New Zealand's first web series for children follows the adventures of a 10 year-old girl for whom the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Nia (Shania Gilmour) lives in the Northland seaside town of Tinopai; in this first episode she introduces herself, her friend Hazel, and her highly active imagination, which is soon teaching a bully a lesson — thanks to help from a boxing glove, and her pet taniwha George. From the folks behind Auckland Daze (Kiel McNaughton and Kerry Warkia), Nia's Extra Ordinary Life also screened on Māori Television.
Nia’s Extra Ordinary Life follows the adventures of Nia, a 10 year-old girl living in the Northland seaside town of Tinopai. “Nothing exciting ever happens here …” begins Nia, but the ordinary becomes extraordinary via the power of her imagination. In this third episode Nia (Shania Gilmour) and Hazel meet Lucas "curled up like a ball" on the beach after a turtle-related incident. They go looking for the escaped turtle, and encounter a crab. Made by the team behind Auckland Daze, Nia’s Extra Ordinary Life was New Zealand's first web series for children.
An elegiac profile of artist Eric Lee-Johnson, by Maurice Shadbolt, is the high point of this NFU magazine film. Johnson gave up a lucrative commercial career to pursue his vision of a New Zealand art moving beyond European tradition; and he is observed chronicling abandoned homesteads and churches, built in remote reaches of Northland's Hokianga harbour by early Pākehā settlers. There's light relief in coverage of a chimpanzees' tea party at Wellington Zoo, while a suitably breathless piece looks at a new industry manufacturing fibreglass boats.
In this 1992 Wild South documentary, pioneering underwater photographers Wade and Jan Doak investigate how fish have evolved over 400 million years on the Northland coast. They explore ocean dwellers off the Poor Knights Islands, where myriad nimble life forms thrive — from radar-like sensory systems and kaleidoscopic colouring, to the intricacies of jaw and fin shape. The Doaks conduct novel experiments to showcase them on camera in this Natural History New Zealand production. This episode was narrated by nature documentary filmmaker Peter Hayden.
Eleven-year-old Utah gets dumped with his estranged dad for the day in this 2011 short film. Dad is the sole employee at a Northland rubbish dump. Utah is embarrassed by his Dad’s job and recycled gifts, but thanks to a trash tour and reversing lessons, gets to know him better. One of the first products of the NZ Film Commission’s Fresh Shorts scheme, the film won director Hamish Bennett a NZ Writers Guild award for Best Short Film Script. The Dump was the first short from teacher Bennett and actor/producer Orlando Stewart; they followed with 2014 award-winner Ross and Beth.
Five years after the Treaty of Waitangi's signing, tension between British and Māori was at boiling point. In the middle of nowhere in Northland, chief Te Ruki Kawiti devised a plan to fight back. His masterpiece was Ruapekapeka, a state of the art pā with underground tunnels, deep trenches and artillery bunkers. Journalist Mihingarangi Forbes visits the site to investigate how Māori — outnumbered four to one — survived a 10 day British bombardment. Produced by Great Southern Television and Radio NZ, NZ Wars won awards for Best Documentary, Māori Programme and Presenter.