Miracle Sun

Don McGlashan, Music Video, 2006

Don McGlashan has won the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll award twice. In 2006 Miracle Sun gained him another nomination. McGlashan's lyrics evoke a mythical summer and directly reference Opo, the 'friendly' dolphin whose visits to Opononi in the mid 1950s became the stuff of Kiwi legend. The song's sweeping chorus is bittersweet, and a lap steel guitar adds a slightly mournful tone. The black and white video mixes National Film Unit footage of Opo charming holidaymakers, with shots of McGlashan and his band heading to the Hokianga and playing a gig for locals.

A Dolphin's Story

Short Film, 1974 (Full Length)

This is an NFU account of a 1970 mission to find, net, and train a Bottlenose dolphin for Marineland in Napier. Informative narration scores the hunt as veteran whaler Joe Perano helps two staff search the Marlborough Sounds. Soon, a pod of "submarine surfers" ride the ship's bow, and a young female is dramatically netted (to her mother's distress). A truck ride and flight later she is swimming in her new marine park home. A year on 'Pelorus Jill' makes her public debut, performing spectacular 12 foot leaps and beaching for a tummy scratch from her trainer.

Pictorial Parade No. 47

Short Film, 1956 (Full Length)

Pictorial Parade was a newsreel series made by the National Film Unit. The trio of items in this 1956 entry starts with 'Salute to Sālote,' in which the Queen of Tonga admires the territorial army recruits at Papakura military camp. In 'What is Dutch for Easter?', Dutch settlers hide painted Easter Eggs for the children of Roseneath school in Wellington. Finally 'The Life of Opo' shows priceless footage of Opononi's world-famous dolphin Opo, and her Marlborough Sounds cousin Pelorus Jack. Shots of 'gay' Opo tossing bottles and frolicking with swimmers are set to a jaunty ditty.

Survey - The Town that Lost a Miracle

Television, 1972 (Full Length)

In this 1972 documentary writer James McNeish visits Opononi to examine the life and controversial death of Opo the dolphin. Working from a McNeish idea, director Barry Barclay uses Opo’s mid 50s visit to the Hokianga as the basis for a probing film essay on people, and other animals. Witnesses recall Opo “oomping away”; they include local Piwai Toi, filmmakers Rudall and Ramai Hayward, and author Maurice Shadbolt. Opo is provokingly not shown on screen. Michael King praised Miracle as “without a doubt the most interesting and evocative” slot in the Survey series to date.

Tonight on NZ On Screen

Short Film, 2010 (Full Length Episodes)

In six online promos for NZ On Screen, actor Tammy Davis (aka Munter from Outrageous Fortune) travels through the years to present classic scenes from the NZ On Screen collection. From Hokianga, 1956, to meet Opo the Gay Dolphin; to Christchurch, 1980, to get On the Mat with Billy T; to Bodgiemania, Rotorua, 1966; to channeling Andrew Fagan circa 1984 when radio came with pictures, to Thingee’s "ocular explosion" a decade later. Directed by the time-warping wizards at Sticky Pictures. All the promos are embeddable so be like Marmite and spread the goodness.

Opo

Television, 1991 (Full Length)

This dramatised documentary looks back to 1955, when a female bottlenose dolphin began appearing regularly in Hokianga Harbour, close to the town of Opononi. Opo became a national celebrity, but died in controversial circumstances on 9 March 1956, the suspected victim of bombing by local fisherman. Directed by Steve La Hood (Numero Bruno, Swimming Lessons), the film recreates events of the summer and explores the belief of local Māori that Opo was a messenger sent by Kupe to unite the people. It includes interviews and extensive archival footage of Opo.

Don Oakley

Camera

As an intrepid young cameraman for the National Film Unit, Don Oakley travelled to remote parts of New Zealand and brought to the screen scenes of the recently-rediscovered takahē, Opo the dolphin, and life in the backblocks. In a lengthy career, he also filmed in the studio and overseas, rising to be chief cameraman of the NFU.

Maurice Shadbolt

Writer, Director

Although best known as a writer, Maurice Shadbolt also did time as a filmmaker. In his 20s he made a number of films at the National Film Unit, as part of a career that encompassed fiction, journalism, theatre and two volumes of autobiography. His classic Gallipoli play Once on Chunuk Bair was made into a feature film in 1992.

Steve La Hood

Director, Producer

A New Zealander of Lebanese descent, Steve La Hood joined TVNZ in the early 70s. He went on to direct on everything from Close to Home and Shortland Street, to an acclaimed documentary on Bruno Lawrence. He also produced The Marching Girls (1987), one of the first dramas to highlight contemporary women characters on NZ television. La Hood now creates museum exhibitions at company Story Inc. 

Ramai Hayward

[Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu] Actor, Director, Writer, Camera, Producer

A pioneer of New Zealand film and star of 1940 classic Rewi's Last Stand, Ramai Hayward is credited as Aotearoa’s first Māori filmmaker, camerawoman, and scriptwriter. At the 2005 Wairoa Māori Film Festival she received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Māori filmmaking; the following year Hayward was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. She passed away on 3 July 2014.