This collection celebrates all things equine on New Zealand screens. Since the early days of the colony, horses have been everything from nation builders (Cobb & Co) to national heroes (Phar Lap, Charisma) to companions (Black Beauty) to heartland icons. Whether work horse, war horse, wild horse, or show pony, horses have become a key part of this (Kiwi) way of life.
Around 31 March 1903, eccentric farmer Richard Pearse climbed into a self-built monoplane and flew for about 140 metres, before crashing into a Waitohi gorse bush. The amount of control he maintained and exact date (before the Wright brothers?) has been oft-debated. This award-winning TV film (an early script for Hunter's Gold's Roger Simpson) dramatises the life of the reclusive young inventor and his flying machine, from his youth up until the flight itself. Actor Martyn Sanderson captures 'Mad Dick's' obsession in a Feltex-winning performance.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
In the 1950s, driven by a desire to power around the shallows of the Mackenzie Country's braided rivers, inventor and "South Island sheep man" Bill Hamilton developed an improved method of jet boat propulsion. This NFU film explains the concept and Hamilton demonstrates the 'turbo craft': cruising Lake Manapouri, waterskiing Lyttelton Harbour, and heading up the Whanganui. Then it's spin outs and shooting rapids (and deer) with Commander Philip Porter from the icebreaker USS Glacier...who clearly loves the smell of the Waimakariri in the morning.
Jim Hopkins presents this documentary — based on his bestselling book — about backyard inventors and their inventions. Some of these “sheddies” are seeking their fortunes, but others seem to simply derive a quiet satisfaction from their ingenuity. They might come from a tradition of number eight wire, string and chewing gum, but amphibious planes and hovercraft feature prominently (with one basement boasting a wind tunnel). A rural bent extends to fence brackets, gate openers, shearing tables, possum pluckers and a serious rat trap (designed by a poet).
Jesse Griffin is probably best known for Wilson Dixon.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
Alongside partner Shane Loader, Andrea Bosshard makes and distributes films through indie filmmaking initiative Torchlight Films. Dominion Post critic Graeme Tuckett called the pair's second feature Hook, Line and Sinker “likeable, admirable and hugely enjoyable”. Third feature The Great Maiden's Blush was released to acclaim — and awards — in 2016.
Temuera Morrison was acting on screen at age 11. Two decades later he won Kiwi TV immortality as Dr Ropata in Shortland Street, and rave global reviews as abusive husband Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors. Since reprising his Warriors role in a well-regarded sequel, Morrison has starred in Crooked Earth, Tracker and Mahana, hosted a talk show and a variety show, and played Jango Fett in two Star Wars prequels.
Reporter turned producer Tony Trotter was a key figure in the long history of rural show Country Calendar, pulling the programme out of the studio and towards a wider audience. Spotting the talent of Country Calendar reporter John Gordon, Trotter got him to front the quirky A Dog's Show. Later Trotter won two Feltex awards producing for TVNZ’s fledgling Natural History Unit. He passed away on 9 March 2016.